§ [Commission Documents: R/1173/77, R/ 1174/77 and S/779/77.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn—[Mr. Snape].
§ 4.54 p.m.
§ Mr. John Peyton (Yeovil)
We have waited for some time while the quota of allotted time for Supply has been eroded by various contributions, the merits of which, by using some restraint, I shall not comment upon.
This afternoon we want to give some expression to the real anxieties of the fishing industry which over the last few months has already lost, to all intents and purposes, the whole of its distant-water operation. We are concerned to echo its fears that, if there is no change of mind and will on the part of those who now claim an almost unfettered right to fish in the North-East Atlantic, the fishing stocks in these waters may be virtually wiped out in a very few years.
We believe that long-established fishing communities in the country are entitled to expect that rapaciousness and indifference as to consequences will give place to prudence and proper concern.
Conservation is a word designed to delight the hearts of legislators and bureaucrats. It implies that one composes a policy which one then puts into legislative language—preferably incomprehensible—subjects it to some kind of lawmaking process and that is the problem solved. Conservation has been much discussed by many people and many nations. The North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission has been meeting for years. There has been widespread agreement. There have been rules governing such important subjects as the mesh of nets and the size of fish. But who observes these rules? Perhaps Britain, Norway and a few other countries.
I shall quote briefly from a letter from Sir Basil Parkes, who is well known for his association with the industry. He states: 1774Not only did our Government make it illegal to carry under-sized nets, and impose heavy fines if we did, but they also stopped us, the producers, from selling undersized fish, they stopped the merchant from buying it and further along the line, they make it illegal for the retailer to sell it to the public.That gives a good summary of the British attitude to such regulations. However, one is tempted to ask—who else even knows the rules, let alone observes them?
I quote again from the same letter from Sir Basil, who recently went aboard a French trawler at Hull, acting as French Consular Agent. He said:The Skipper complained that he did not know he was breaking any rules in fishing with herring net, according to the instructions issued to him by the Ministry. I took him up on this, and he produced some official papers dated 31st December 1976, which clearly stipulated that he was allowed to use a 50 mm. herring net so long as he landed at the end of his voyage, 20 per cent. of herring or mackerel. This of course is the complete reverse of what our regulations are. If we get permission to carry a herring or mackerel net, we have to be catching and land at the end of the trip at least 80 per cent. herring and /or mackerel, and we have to be catching that proportion during the voyage—otherwise we are not allowed to use that size net".Who has even got the rules straight? There has been no lack of either rules or agreement, hence my position on these documents to which we are referring this afternoon. Good as their intentions may be, they will not get us any further forward. What has been lacking is restraint —restraint from over-fishing and restraint from methods such as beam trawling and industrial fishing with fine-mesh nets, which are destructive in that they leave behind them nothing on the seabed.
We joined the Community because we thought that it was right and in our interests so to do. We preferred it to isolation. We knew, and the present Government knew after their renegotiation, that some problems would remain to be solved. The Government have made much of the fact that the common fisheries policy was not settled, but their own failure to renegotiate that policy —they must be fair about it for once—is explainable only by the fact of their own reliance upon the specific undertakings given during the negotiations to my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). Undertakings were clearly given not that the Community would listen to our case but 1775 that there would be a completely new look at the fisheries problem.
It would not be inappropriate if I were to quote from a speech made by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham, who was very much involved in these negotiations, as recently as 17th June in the European Parliament. He said,I did, however, Mr. President, make it plain on behalf of the British Government— and I am sure this is a matter upon which the House of Commons as a whole would be unanimous—that no future British Government could in practice be forced into arrangements which, in their judgment, failed to safeguard our vital fishing interests as they then defined them. Now I may say Mr. President there was no other issue in the whole of the negotiations to enlarge the Community on which I felt it necessary to make such a specific and firm declaration. Fisheries proved to be the most sensitive and the most difficult issue in the whole of the enlargement negotiations, and it was simply because the agricultural ministers made such a hash of the whole business.For the moment, at any rate, I am entitled to say that it is the habit of agriculture Ministers to make a hash of the whole business. Whether I shall retain that view in the future is another matter.
We now have to hope that the Council of Ministers will pay due attention to the facts of the situation, to the arguments and to the undertakings that were given during negotiations but which seem to have been put rather under the carpet in recent times.
I accept that a treaty, having been signed, there are certain obligations following upon it, and the particular obligation with which we should all be concerned is to make the Community live and work. But that does not mean that we should not learn from experience or that we should not judge the declared intentions of member States as to conservation by what they have actually done in the past. We must ask which of the countries that now seek to fish our traditional grounds can point to a record in conservation that creates confidence that in practice they will not loot any new grounds which may become open to them. What possible reason have we to believe that those who have fished out their own waters will not do the same to ours, and quickly?
There must be two main pillars to any common fisheries policy. First, there must 1776 be strict protection of the breeding grounds, some of which should, perhaps, be permanently closed. One of the documents before us today proposes that herring in the North Sea should be given a bit of a rest and a chance to recover. But one wonders how much reliance one can put upon what so far is only a paper proceeding.
The second pillar of any sensible policy is that methods of fishing must be restricted. Those methods that I have described as literally destructive of fish stocks should be banned. Those who use or countenance the use of such methods cannot expect to have their words as to conservation taken very seriously. Indeed, one hears very little from those sources as to how conservation and regulations governing it would be enforced.
We are told that catch quotas would be the main means of giving the policy some meaning, but to rely upon such measures would be to turn a blind eye to experience and to put our faith in a device which would be a nuisance to the few who observe the law and a joke to the many who do not.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing (Moray and Nairn)
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in a fishing debate in Strasbourg on Friday, the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) admitted that when he signed the treaty he knew that adequate safeguards had not been taken by his Government in regard to the fisheries policy? Is it not just a little hypocritical that we should be expected to have to listen to this stuff coming after the event?
§ Mr. Peyton
I would not wish to cross swords with the hon. Lady when it comes to hypocrisy, but as her memory is not evidently very long, I should like to refer her to her own words—this is the first time that I have ever quoted her—as reported at column 283 of the proceedings on the same day:May I echo my support for the sentiments expressed by Mr. Rippon?
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
Will my right hon. Friend accept that the statement by Mr. Rippon was extremely clear—[HON. MEMEERS: "Order."]—and thoroughly understood by all those in the European Parliament and, at the time, by Mrs. Ewing herself.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine)
Order. Perhaps the hon. Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) is used to European practice, but here we refer to hon. Members by their constituency.
§ Mr. Peyton
The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) has already persuaded me to give way to her once. I think that it would be kindly if I did not allow her a second opportunity.
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) for confirming the impression that I gained from my right hon. and learned Friend's speech and for her recollections of the views that were then held —all of a week ago—by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn.
I think that we must acknowledge that it would be wrong for us to seek to disregard or overlook rights which have long been enjoyed by other nations, and particularly those which are our partners in the Community. But we, too, have historic rights, and it ill behoves those who claim to rely on theirs to deny ours, which are even more powerfully established.
It would also be wrong for us silently to accept the disaster which shortsightedness and greed could so easily bring about. I cannot see any alternative to making each country responsible for the management and policing of the waters nearest to its coastline. I share the view of the industry that a zone of 50 miles would be the best way of ensuring that conservation requirements were observed and due penalties exacted for their breach.
Great difficulties attend the settling of agreements with third countries, for those third countries are themselves anxious to know how far they can rely on undertakings given on behalf of not one nation but many. Experience so far does not encourage me to look for much progress from negotiations carried out by the Commission with third countries. The Community might do well to organise individual countries to negotiate on its behalf.
I come now to the most important question of all, that of enforcement, 1778 which I have raised on a number of previous occasions with the right hon. Gentleman. I have always had the impression that he, too, takes a serious view of the problem. But the point one has to face here is that both the new extended areas of sea and the intensive methods of fishing now introduced have increased both the size and urgency of the problem.
I have no doubt that a Nimrod aeroplane is a very useful thing for many purposes, but I cannot help feeling that, when it comes to the enforcement of the fishing rules, it has certain limitations. It is somewhat remote. Reliance upon Nimrod is hardly likely to calm our fear —I quote again from Sir Basil Parkes— thatThe fleets which are going to converge on the poor British grounds are so much in excess of what the grounds can produce, even if they adhere to the conservation measures, which they have never done up to now.I believe that the Minister will probably agree with much that I have said, but what does he intend to do about it now? We shall certainly support him in his claim for a total re-examination, that re-examination to be made in the light of and in accordance with assurances repeatedly given to my right hon. Friends. I hope that the Minister will be fair enough to acknowledge that those assurances were given, otherwise he has no excuse at all for not having renegotiated the policy.
My second question to the Minister is: does he intend to go it alone, in the same way as he did with pigs? This would be a very serious matter for a man who has found himself in the courts once and has been defeated there.
Thirdly, what about enforcement? We no longer have a fisheries protection flotilla? Why not? Apparently it is because the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson), when he was Prime Minister, decided that we could not afford such expensive luxuries. The position is that at a time of greater need we no longer have the use of eight vessels working full-time on fisheries protection. We have instead only the odd frigate from time to time and a few inshore vessels which are not fitted for operations in distant waters or in weather in which the big trawlers can quite safely operate.
1779 As we see it, the Minister, because of the Government's policy on defence, lacks muscle to enforce any policy, whether it is agreed or otherwise with his colleagues. We also believe that, by his attitude in the Council of Ministers, the Minister has evaporated that good will upon which those who lack strength are obliged to rely.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North) rose——
§ Mr. Peyton
The Minister rather prides himself on being tough, but he has gone so far on certain occasions as to give the impression that he equates the keeping of promises with surrender—a novel doctrine and not one likely to make him many friends. He burst into poetry the other day. He gave it to The Times for nothing. He appears to us to have given such offence to his colleagues and partners in Europe that they may not be minded to listen to his arguments, no matter how well founded. They may even be minded to forget undertakings given in the past to my right hon. Friends. We fear that his toughness will in the event be seen to be that of a paper tiger, since he and his colleagues have stripped down the means we once had of defending our legitimate interests.
It will be our intention to give our anxieties and fears expression in the Lobby tonight unless the Minister can give us some reasonable ground for thinking that they are without foundation, but they will need to be very strong and they will need to be much more convincing than anything he has previously said on this subject.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Silkin)
I am very glad that we are having this debate because, in addition to taking in the three EEC documents which have been circulated, we can, as the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) has shown us, debate the common fisheries policy as a whole—and I am not afraid of doing so. But first, perhaps, I ought to deal with those EEC documents, and I hope that the House will bear with me if I deal with them a little more intensively perhaps than the right hon. Gentleman did.
1780 Document R/1174/77 deals with conservation measures for herring and was discussed at the meeting of the EEC Council of Agriculture Ministers on 16th May, but was not adopted. As I told the House on 18th May, a temporary extension of the North Sea herring ban was agreed for the month of June, together with a similar temporary ban for the same period for the West of Scotland stock. Herring conservation measures as a whole will be discussed at the special Fisheries Council on 27th June, on the basis of this proposal or something very like it. Changes to it will be needed to take account of the latest scientific advice, but generally speaking we think that it is an acceptable basis for discussion.
Document R/1173/77 is a communication to the Council from the Commission, rather than a formal proposal for Community legislation, identifying what the Commission believes are the fundamental problems on which it feels that the debate within the Community should be concentrated. The Council has not yet discussed this document, but I have to say that it adds little to the Commission's previous ideas and certainly does not acknowledge the United Kingdom's special needs.
Document S/779/77 is a proposal by the Commission for licensing third country fishing boats in the waters of EEC member States after 30th June. Until then, licences for third country boats will be issued by United Kingdom Ministers in their role as President of the Community. This document proposes that the Commission should issue such licences after that date, a procedure for deciding how many licences to issue, and that licensed vessels should be required to report regularly when fishing within the limits of member States.
At present, only boats from the Soviet Union, Poland, East Germany, Portugal and Spain require a licence to fish, but the Commission's proposal provides for fishing by all third countries to be licensed. Licensing is a valuable contribution to controlling the fishing activities of third countries, and placing reporting requirements on licensed vessels should increase our knowledge of what licensed vessels are doing.
We welcome the basic purpose of these proposals, but there are aspects of them 1781 which need to be considered further in the light of progress in the overall reappraisal of the common fisheries policy. The Foreign Ministers' Council therefore agreed on 21st June to continue the current arrangements for licensing by the Presidency for another three months. This will give time for us to ensure that the system proposed in S/779/77 is as effective as possible and does not prejudice member States' rights, when necessary, to introduce national measures to conserve fisheries.
But these proposals—ad hoc attempts to deal with piecemeal problems—merely demonstrate the need for a coherent fishing policy designed for a world of 200-mile limits and threatened fishing stocks. There are, after all, two basic essentials which are interlocked: first, conservation of fish and, secondly, conservation of the livelihoods of those who live by fishing. Unless we conserve fish, there will be none left and the livelihood not only of fishermen but of all those who live by fishing, including boat and dock builders and people employed in distribution and processing, would be at risk.
§ Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)
Does not the Minister agree that there would be adequate fishing for all the people he has just mentioned if only we could get our EEC partners to stop fishing for industrial purposes and allow the fish to grow to maturity so that they could be used for home consumption?
§ Mr. Silkin
I think I shall touch on that in chapter 4. Fishing is not only their livelihood; it is part of the nation's livelihood. In my visits to English ports I have seen overwhelming evidence of thise. My right hon. Friend the Secretaries of State responsible for other parts of the United Kingdom report the same problem. To appreciate these problems we have to understand the pattern of our fishing to-day, a pattern very different from that which existed before we entered the EEC.
With regard to pelagic fish—essentially herring, sprat and mackerel—there has been a serious decline in herring stocks, as we have all become aware. There has also been a greater utilisation of mackerel stocks since 1972. Pelagic catches of other countries around our shores have increased out of all recognition and in 1975 amounted to 750,000 tonnes in the 1782 United Kingdom 200-mile zone. Conservation therefore becomes absolutely vital. The right hon. Member for Yeovil and the House are quite right.
It is quite possible that more than 200,000 tonnes of herring, on which our industry mainly depends, are still being taken by the herring fisheries, whereas the stocks in their present state can bear not much more than one-third of that. The picture for mackerel is similar although not quite so severe at present.
I turn to demersal fish—cod, haddock, plaice and sole. From the time of the Treaty of Accession, when we caught 760,000 tonnes, our catch has been reduced to about 600,000 tonnes, of which 130,000 tonnes comes from waters of non-EEC countries. The loss in value to the industry of distant-water fishing has been of the order of £80 million a year. But the demersal catch by other countries in our waters, under our sovereignty and jurisdiction up to the 200-mile limit, increased from 360,000 tonnes to about 470,000 tonnes, although nearly half of that was by non-EEC countries.
Of course, many of the problems with which we are faced would have existed had there been no common fisheries policy. It may be helpful to see what we could have done in the circumstances, and then perhaps we can make comparisons. If there were no common fisheries policy, we would have got notice of the extended limits of other countries—Iceland and so on. We would have had to offer reciprocal agreements where we could to those other countries. The end result would probably have been diminished fishing possibilities off Iceland, perhaps the Faroes and, to a lesser extent, Norway.
What would we have done in those circumstances. First, we would have had to utilise the fish around our shores to the best advantage by trading surplus fish in our waters—those fish which our consumers primarily do not want—with fish that we would want in the waters of other countries. Secondly, we would have had to phase out from our 200-mile limits those countries without reciprocal fishing benefits to offer. Thirdly, we would have had to control very tightly the fishing of those countries to which we have given the right to fish in our waters by limiting effort. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman that catch quotas are not 1783 enough and by themselves simply do not work. Fourthly, we would have had to subject all fishing in United Kingdom limits to a strict conservation policy.
§ Mr. Peyton
Will the Minister say whether the Government have any intention of reviving the fisheries protection flotilla? The more I look at this, the more inevitable I think it becomes.
§ Mr. Silkin
The question of enforcement and the policy connected with it are probably better left to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. I have spoken to him about it. I do not want to delay the House too long in what is inevitably a bit of a tour d'horizon.
§ Mr. Peyton
Will the Minister use his persuasive powers on his right hon. Friend to make sure that he does answer the point?
§ Mr. Silkin
I do not have to use any persuasive powers. My right hon. Friend is the most reasonable man I know.
The fact is that we have to deal with the problems posed by the common fisheries policy. That is a policy which inevitably inhibits our freedom of action. It still remains true that within the common fisheries policy we must try to pursue, as far as possible, the same aims as we would have done without it.
On conservation, we have taken the lead in pressing for a coherent conservation policy to protect the fish stocks of member States. We have succeeded to a limited extent. The Council has adopted measures including a ban on fishing for Norway pout to protect immature white fish and various measures to protect herring stocks. But more needs to be done. I freely concede that.
Our aim is an effective and comprehensive Community conservation policy. But the whole House, as was shown by the unanimous acceptance of the principle of the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) the other day, also accepts the importance of individual member States retaining the right to take national conservation measures within their own fishery limits, where member States see that need as urgent and it is not possible to reach Community agreement quickly.
1784 Negotiations with third countries are still necessary though they are now conducted by the Commission on behalf of the Community. The result with regard to United Kingdom waters is that many countries—for example, Romania and Bulgaria—can no longer fish there, because in those cases there was no possibility of reciprocal arrangements, and that limitations have been imposed on fishing by several other countries—for example, Spain. This reduction of fishing effort by third countries will, of course, leave more fish for EEC fishermen.
Our own distant-water fishermen are themselves interested in the waters of third countries, particularly those round Norway, the USSR, Faroes and Iceland. The position on this is, first, that in the case of Norway negotiations are continuing and I have good hopes that an arrangement will be concluded allowing for continued fishing by United Kingdom fishermen in Norwegian waters, though at a somewhat reduced level.
Secondly, United Kingdom fishermen are still fishing at the Faroes but the negotiations are continuing and have proved very difficult. If the present Faroese restrictions on our fishing are not eased, we may have to reconsider the continuation of Faroese fishing in our waters.
Thirdly, the USSR has also extended her limits to 200 miles recently. Substantive negotiations on reciprocal quotas have not yet started.
We are still talking to the Icelanders, although I am not for one moment attempting to say other than that I do not wish to raise any false hopes about the outcome. There will continue to be some scope for fishing in distant waters, but it is clear that in future the great bulk of the catch of the United Kingdom industry must come from our own waters.
The vital point—this is where membership of the EEC affects us most—is what proportion of the stocks in these waters will be taken by fishermen from the different countries. It is a question of access. Membership—let us consider it carefully—means that we cannot treat EEC fishermen like those from third countries.
But the facts are that the fish in United Kingdom waters amount to nearly two-thirds of the total stocks in the waters 1785 of member States, and that our fleet has suffered grave losses in terms of fishing opportunities elsewhere. In our view, these factors alone entitle United Kingdom fishermen to a very substantial proportion of the total catch. A division such as the Commission has proposed based on historic catches within 200-mile limits only is simply not good enough.
The real difficulty is that unless we secure the necessary changes in the common fisheries policy now—here we may go back to the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon)—we may be faced in 1982 with a system that will allow free fishing by all up to the beaches in all the waters of member States. That is the danger. And any change in this situation requires the unanimous agreement of the nine member States.
We consider that United Kingdom fishermen can obtain their fair share of the stocks only if the common fisheries policy is radically redesigned. In particular it should include provision for substantial areas around the United Kingdom coast in which they have exclusive or preferential access. The Commission itself recognises that changes are needed and has suggested a limited coastal belt and quotas covering all fishing by fishermen of the member States in their waters. Unfortunately, neither the belt nor the quotas are satisfactory.
For our part, over a year ago Her Majesty's Government proposed a variable coastal belt of up to 50 miles covering the most vital areas for the British industry. Our aims were—and remain—the conservation of the fish stocks within that belt and the satisfying of our own fishermen's requirements. Of course, I have always said that any surplus after these two basic conditions had been met would be available for our EEC partners, or as part of a trade-off with third countries upon a reciprocal basis in which we could share. As the House knows, up to now the variable belt proposal has met with fierce resistance in the EEC. However, that proposal remains on the table. We are ready to consider in the Council any alternative measure, provided always that it gives us these twin objectives of conservation and dominant preference.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
By my right hon. Friend's refer- 1786 ence to the unanimity rule I understand that this is one of the instances in which the Government will be prepared to use their veto effectively if we do not get a satisfactory situation.
§ Mr. Silkin
The trouble is that it is the wrong way round. I do not know whether my hon. Friend was present during the debates concerning the fishing industry, but exactly that point came up over and over again, as well I remember.
§ Mr. Silkin
The persuasive ability that the right hon. Member for Yeovil assured me that I have when he asked me to draw something to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland.
The present EEC arrangements already regard the area within 12 miles as having a special status. Access to important parts of this zone is already in practice limited to coastal fishermen. In our view the whole of this zone should ultimately be reserved exclusively to fishermen of the coastal State, but we should obviously need suitable phase-out arrangements for the fishermen from the other member States who currently fish there. In time the entire catch—subject to conservation limits—within the 12-mile zone should be allocated to the coastal State.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
Will the right hon. Gentleman include the areas between six miles and 12 miles that in some portions of the United Kingdom were signed away by the Conservative Government?
§ Mr. Silkin
Certainly. The area between 12 miles and 50 miles will in future be of crucial importance to our industry if it is to be redeveloped for work in near and middle waters.
It is possible to catch around 150,000 tonnes of demersal fish and about 250,000 tonnes of pelagic fish within 12 miles of our coasts. The two must be considered separately since they are caught by different methods of fishing and demersal have about two and a half times the value of pelagic. The 12-mile exclusive zone would provide us with the bulk of our 1787 traditional pelagic catch but only one-fifth of our traditional demersal catch, and even that would include a substantial tonnage of less familiar species.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Even with all these permutations and combinations, does my right hon. Friend think in his heart of hearts that it will be possible to reach a national total equal to the 900,000 tonnes that we have been catching for decades? Is it possible to do that?
§ Mr. Silkin
We must get the most viable state for our industry that we can. We might have met these difficulties, or some of them, but I am trying to show the greater difficulties that we now have to face.
The stocks out to 50 miles contain enough pelagic fish not only for our present needs but to cater for considerable future expansion. Some of the fishing concerns catching demersal fish will have to switch to pelagic. That is bound to be so. However, the total demersal catching to 50 miles is 500,000 tonnes. If we had sole access to all that it would not enable us to maintain the present size of our demersal industry, but a dominant priority there, together with a share of the fishing elsewhere, including the remainder of our waters up to 200 miles, would enable us to have a firm economic base on which we could rebuild the industry.
We must face the possibility that other member States, or some of them, despite all the arguments and the sweet reason that the right hon. Gentleman wants me to exercise, and which others may put forward, may not react constructively and may refuse to accept what we regard as the minimum changes necessary to the common fisheries policy. We shall have to face that situation, if it arises. I cannot claim that we shall have an easy ride.
§ Mr. Douglas Henderson (Aberdeenshire, East)
I think that we all recognise that the right hon. Gentleman is doing his best to obtain these objectives. However, he must face the possibility that we shall not be able to convince the other eight countries of the legitimate claims that all the parties in this House consider we have. Has the Minister contingency plans now for unilateral action in that event?
§ Mr. Silkin
I always start with the assumption that others—even the Opposition and the Scottish National Party— are essentially reasonable men. That is always the best basis from which to start. If one finds that they are not, the contingency plans have a way of organising themselves. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman because he has pointed out the difficulties that I do not think the right hon. Gentleman fairly assessed.
At the time of the Treaty of Accession our rights were all too quickly discarded. The result of that folly cannot be too quickly remedied. Negotiations will be difficult.
§ Mr. Peyton
The right hon. Gentleman cannot make that sort of comment without going on to say why he did not seek to make repairs during the renegotiation.
§ Mr. Silkin
I suppose that I should supply the right hon. Gentleman—modesty has heretofore prevented me from doing it—with an autobiography of what my attitude was to the whole thing at the time of the Treaty of Accession and also at the time of renegotiation.
§ Mr. Peter Mills (Devon, West)
The House is entitled to know why, in the renegotiation, the Socialist Government did not make that point. If it was so vital, why did they not do it?
§ Mr. Silkin
I dare say that the House may be entitled to hear that. The House is also entitled to know that I have searched diligently, but I am afraid without success, for any speech or any utterance from the Opposition Front Bench in which they called for a renegotiation of the fish question.
§ Mr. Peyton
I must ask the right hon. Gentleman to break with his usual practice and answer a question. If he is accusing the present Opposition of having failed to settle an acceptable fisheries policy during the original negotiations, why did not the Government of the day, when they came to renegotiate the accession, in the name of conscience repair the omission which they attribute to us?
§ Mr. Silkin
If it had been possible to do so, that is to my mind something which at the time should have been in the renegotiation package, but there were certain other factors. I have never 1789 dissembled from the House my personal view. I am being asked what I personally thought about that whole renegotiation. All that I can say is that it does not lie in the mouths of the right hon. Member for Yeovil and his colleagues or cohorts to criticise that. They were only too glad to see that the renegotiation was a success. [Interruption.] I searched for a speech of any sort on fishing that the hon. Member for Devon, West (Mr. Mills) had made at that time.
One thing is clear, despite the difficulties of the negotiations. Sound and comprehensive arrangements, at least for conservation, are absolutely essential. The introduction of proper conservation measures for United Kingdom waters cannot be postponed. That is our policy and I have tried to tell the House exactly how we propose to deal with matters at the Council meeting on 27th June and in the event of any lack of a constructive agreement or understanding with our partners.
Let no one here or abroad get the impression that because we are reasonable we are prepared to surrender the needs and rights of our fishermen. We understand the problems of other nations, but they must be prepared to understand ours. If they do not, the result will be to harden, not to soften, our resolve. We shall be guided by one overriding objective. Every member of the Community has some interest, but not every member of the Community has a vital interest, in conservation. Not every member of the Community has a fishing industry of such national importance as we have. We are determined to preserve both our industry and our stocks, so that a stable and prosperous future may be assured.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I am glad to be called to follow the lucid speech of the Minister of Agriculture, but I must say at the outset that this whole debate is overhung by an atmosphere of unrealism and hypocrisy. This is a Supply Day. This is a day on which Her Majesty's Opposition are entitled to choose not only the subject but the weapons, and we listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) to see what it is that Her Majesty's Opposition on behalf of the country wished to attain or at any rate to assist 1790 by utilising the opportunity which our parliamentary system gives them.
The right hon. Gentleman said that it was essential that each country in the Community should be responsible for management, control and enforcement within a zone of 50 miles from their respective coasts. I regard that as rather less than the minimum which is requisite as a satisfactory fisheries policy for this country; but at any rate it is an uncontestable statement, on the basis of experience, of what this country needs.
Now, there was nothing whatsoever to prevent Her Majesty's Opposition from putting a motion at any rate to that effect upon the Order Paper— "that in the opinion of this House the interests of the fishing industry of this country and of the nation require the exclusive management, control and enforcement of conservation measures within a 50-mile zone around the coasts of the United Kingdom". If they had put that motion on the Order Paper I wonder whether there is any hon. Member who would have gone into the Lobby against it. I doubt it. It is evident from the speech of the Minister that he would have encouraged and supported those who wished to affirm such a proposition.
Therefore, the Opposition had the power, by the simple process of tabling a motion which enshrined part at any rate of what they have told us today they consider to be necessary and desirable, to secure the affirmation of that proposition by this House of Commons, to make it part of the policy of this country, and to add that reinforcement to the work of the Minister in the European Economic Community.
Instead of that, we are to divide tonight, some of us, upon the proposition that the House should, rather than should not, adjourn—that is to say, whether we should or should not wipe out the subsequent debate upon EEC matters. The Opposition have thus deliberately renounced the opportunity to make good their words. Anxious as they have shown themselves this afternoon to rebut the suggestion that they were in any way delinquent in 1972, 1974 or 1975, they could have hauled some of their delinquency back by saying, "At any rate there is our resolution, that is what we put before the House, not merely in the speech of the right hon. Member for 1791 Yeovil but on the Order Paper: let the House vote one way or the other. This is where the Official Opposition stand."
But not a bit of it. They have used their control over the procedure this afternoon to prevent this House—the motion is not amendable, or someone would have amended it—from asserting its will, even from defining its will, within the European Economic Community. It is just one example of the preference for the development of the Community and its supra-national character over national interests, over—we dare use the word nowadays—national sovereignty, which has unfortunately characterised the whole policy and behaviour of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Would the right hon. Gentleman at least be fair enough to admit that if it were not for the Opposition the fishing issue would not be discussed at all before Monday's meeting? All our appeals to the Government for a full day's debate on this matter have been rejected time and time again.
§ Mr. Powell
We had a good deal of discussion on fisheries when this House passed a Bill introduced by the Minister to create what he referred to this afternoon as "Our waters—waters under our sovereignty and jurisdiction." Five minutes of that debate was worth many hours of talk without a motion on the Order Paper. But if we are short of time for discussion of fishery matters, it is all the more important to crystallise our conclusions and make it clear to the Government and the world where the balance of opinion in this country lies and what our determination is.
Now these waters which are "our own, and under our jurisdiction and sovereignty"—does the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) seriously think that for our access to those waters, for the conservation of the resources of those waters and for our national requirements we can r0eally rely, and still less that we should be "obliged to rely"—the right hon. Member's words—upon the mere "good will" of the other members of the Community? Conservative Members are remarkably innocent if that is what they understand about this Europe that we have entered. Are they suggesting that we should rely for our access to and con- 1792 servation of waters containing 65 per cent, of total stocks upon the very people who have hitherto pillaged and looted them?
§ Mr. Peyton
I have never known the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) be almost intentionally as unfair as he is being now. He has misquoted me completely. My point was quite clear. The present Government have stripped this country of the ability to protect our fishermen and our fishing in that we no longer have a fisheries protection flotilla. I made that absolutely clear. I went on to say that we thought that the Minister was lacking muscle, and therefore was forced to rely on a degree of good will that he had dissipated.
§ Mr. Powell
It would indeed be advantageous in this respect—and here I agree with the right hon. Gentleman—if we could have a separate debate and full investigation upon the present effectiveness of our fishery protection measures and what is still required. All I will say is that those of us who were most anxious about this six months ago have been partially reassured by the success with which at least the flagrant breaches of our controls and our law are being apprehended and dealt with, I am not claiming by any means that this has been sufficient; but it has been more than some of us were inclined to fear, recalling the debates last December.
However, I am talking about securing our rights and a common fisheries policy which meets our national needs; and it was in that context that the right hon. Gentleman alleged that we were "obliged to rely on good will". Before I sit down— and I intend to make a very brief speech —I shall indicate certain weapons—other than good will, which one should always presume until it is found to be absent— upon which we can rely.
We are fortunate to be able to have this debate on the same day as the publication of the White Fish Authority's annual report and accounts; and it is right to put on the record of the House the view of this whole matter which appears in the Authority's report, namely thatthe treatment of fish as a common resource of the EEC was essentially an unsound conception",and it iscurious that fish, alone amongst Community resources, on land or in the sea, was to be treated in this way".1793 That is a conclusion to which most hon. Members have come or are coming, if they would only admit it.
The report continues:Like the industries of the two countries—and a 50-mile exclusive zone is the demand of the British fishing industry—the British and Irish Governments are persuaded"—we heard this from the Minister this afternoon—that effective conservation depends on a wide area of water under the exclusive control of the coastal state.It is that determination which, despite the fact that we cannot record it tonight, should issue from this debate today, and because it is expressed by the actions of the Government and not by the determination of the Opposition to prevent this House from arriving at a conclusion and decision, my hon. Friends and I will have no part in the pantomime at 10 o'clock of pretending that we are doing something for the fishing industry by voting on the motion for the Adjournment.
The Government have indicated their conclusion on the present state of the negotiations on the common fisheries policy in the explanatory note to R/1173/77, where they say:While the review so far is welcome, there is still no recognition on the part of the Commission of the United Kingdom's requirement that the re-allocation of Community resources should be on the basis of Member States' contributions to those resources and of the losses sustained by Member States' fishing industries in distant waters.If it were up to me to put a motion on the Order Paper those words would have been included in it and reaffirmed by the House tonight.
In these negotiations with the Commission we are in an immensely strong position. We are in the strong position of being the possessors in international law of the majority of the fishing resources of the Community—approximately two-thirds was the estimate mentioned by the Minister this afternoon. We are entitled and able to say that in this matter, where we are discussing our own territorial and sovereign waters, it remains ultimately in our power and discretion what arrangements we make, within the Community or outside it, for access to these waters and for the conditions to be fulfilled if the access is allowed, conditions of conserva- 1794 tion no different from those that we shall impose upon our own fishermen; and may I say that my own fishermen in Mourne are as keen as possible upon scrupulous observation of the domestic law laid down for the preservation of fishery resources?
§ Mr. James Kilfedder (Down, North) indicated assent.
§ Mr. Powell
I see that I have the assent of my colleague in the representation of County Down.
It would be useless for the Community to turn round and say to us "Yes, but you are effectively our prisoners. You are dependent upon us for benefits with which you cannot dispense; so, like it or not, you must toe the fishery line that we choose to prescribe." That is not so. We are net contributors financially to the EEC, not net recipients. So the Community cannot say that it will cut us off without a penny, because it is the other way round—as the hon. Member for Birmingham, Handsworth (Mr. Lee) was explaining in another context.
Nor could the Community say "If we restrict our trade with you and refuse you free trade in industrial products, you will be in a difficult position." On the contrary, it is the Community which enjoys the benefit of an uncompensated surplus on the trading balance of payments in industrial products; so what it would cut off in that case would be its own nose.
The Community also cannot say "either toe the line or else you shall starve". The threat would be "Toe the line, or you will be forced to buy what food you require from the best and most reliable markets in the world. You shall have your food more cheaply." What a terrible menace.
That, then, is the powerful negotiating position we have in the EEC. The matter is within our control. Nobody wishes to place on the right hon. Gentleman or on the Government prescriptions as to the modalities by which they will secure these results. It is the results themselves which we demand. Those results have to be secured, because they can be secured, as I have demonstrated, and because they are essential to the well-being of one of our great industries.
1795 I believe that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has so far deserved well of this country and, whatever else is said, even if we go on after the hour for the Adjournment at 10 o'clock, he should be encouraged to persevere as he is doing and to exploit the invincible bargaining power which this country possesses.
§ 6.2 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
There is no doubt that there are strong storm clouds gathering on the horizon which threaten the future of our fishing industry. We spend almost all of our time in these fishery debates simply reflecting the anxieties of our constituents who are producers, marketers and, just as important, consumers of fish. Therefore, I believe that it is worth while putting on record a small optimistic note for the fishing industry.
In the annual report and accounts of the White Fish Authority, published today, it is worth recording that, despite difficult circumstances, which are acknowledged, large sections of the fishing industry on the catching side have had a prosperous year. Total British landings of white fish rose by over 10 per cent, compared with those in 1975, reaching 750,000 tonnes. The value rose proportionately very much more, from £126 million to a figure in excess of £175 million. Including shellfish, weight was up by 11 per cent, to 841,000 tonnes, and value went up by 41 per cent.—which is a significant figure—from £140 million to virtually £200 million. It is worth recording, therefore, that the fishing industry has had some success both in catch and value terms.
Even if we take inflation into account we must conclude that the industry has had a much more prosperous year than it had in 1975. Bearing in mind the dire and grave warnings about the fact that the fleet was unlikely to be viable and that the industry faced total catastrophe, the turn-round from expectations of disaster to an improvement amounting to 41 per cent, in value is very worth recording.
Many take the view that uncertainty created by lack of confidence is not doing the industry any good. That lack of confidence is reflected in the fact that in the last year there has not been a single grant 1796 in respect of applications for vessels of over 83 feet in length. If the fleet is not replaced the potential catch in the industry will be affected.
This matter is of great interest to me because, unless vessels are kept up, it will prejudice the safety of those who go to sea. We do not want to see those men taking to the sea in ships which are growing old and have maintenance difficulties. It is also worth recalling the increase in the number of applications for improvements in boats—an aspect which should be borne in mind.
I echo what the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said as to the stand we should take on fisheries policy. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not mind if I underline what he said, because these matters must be repeated time and again so that these points are driven home. I shall quote from the official document produced by the White Fish Authority. Sometimes when hon. Members make points about the importance of a common fisheries policy, the approach of people outside the House is that we are anti-EEC politicians churning out the same old dirge, but that is not the case. Even those who are pro-EEC would accept that damage has been inflicted on our industry by the EEC common fisheries policy. Even those who are fairly neutral and on neither one side nor the other of the argument accept that that is the case.
On page 3 of the Authority's Report we see the following comment:In last year's report we remarked that the treatment of fish as a common resource was an essentially unsound conception, and we might have added that it was curious that fish, alone amongst Community resources on land or in the sea, was to be treated in this way.The report goes on to point out that the British and Irish Governments have taken certain steps towards conservation and so on, and it continues:Even more depressing has been the tendency amongst them"—referring to our EEC partners—to disregard scientific advice in matters of conservation in a manner that represents no improvement on experience in the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission.The point stressed in every debate in the House on fisheries policy is summed up in this sentence of the report:Until disagreement about the common fisheries policy can be resolved, all else hangs 1797 fire. Effective conservation by quotas and by effort limitation cannot in practice by prescribed and enforced. It is impracticable to discuss restructuring of the fleets. Arrangements with third-party countries have become more difficult to formulate.Every single aspect of domestic fishing policy is affected or held back or is incapable of solution or rational discussion till we can resolve the CFP. Unless we can persuade our EEC partners—and here I strike a less optimistic note—of the gross denial of British rights by regarding fish as a common resource, we shall never secure proper agreement. That conception is basic to our thinking.
The right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton), who, unhappily, has departed from the Chamber, said that the Minister of Agriculture had upset our Community partners by his aggressive defence of British rights, not only about fishing but also about agricultural policy. The right hon. Gentleman will know that the Minister was prepared to go it alone on the pigmeat subsidy, on which subsequently we were taken to the European court. When that policy was being discussed I do not remember the right hon. Member for Yeovil throwing his weight against the Minister for taking unilateral action. I thought on that occasion the right hon. Gentleman felt that the Minister had gone that far. Obviously the right hon. Gentleman is treating each debate on its merits —and the merits of his speeches become fewer as each debate succeeds.
For the first time in all our fishery debates the right hon. Member for Yeovil was driven to defending the previous Conservative Administration's decision to go into Europe and to accept the CFP. It was the first time that he tried to produce an answer, and all that he could produce in evidence was a speech that had been made by the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) in which an assurance had been given. That was a pretty pathetic defence, because, accepting that we are now in a strong position, we in the North-West were put in a poor legalistic negotiating position, and the greatest damage that was done to us by agreeing to the CFC was the removal of our veto. If we try to debate any agreement we just reinforced the kind of thing that we are trying to avoid. It is the removal of the veto powers in negotiation that has been so damaging.
1798 Many hard things have been said about the Government for not properly negotiating the CFP. I am willing to accept that much of that is true, but I must say in defence of the Minister of Agriculture that he at least made his disagreement known and campaigned to keep us out of the EEC during the referendum debate. At least he has an honourable position. Perhaps I am sticking my neck out, but it may be that some of the fishermen who are so hard on the Government and those people who are trying to do their best should reflect on how many of them voted against staying in the EEC.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
I have good contacts with the fishing industry, and, as far as I am aware, most of the fishermen were against the EEC from the beginning. In my constituency, which was the only one that voted against remaining in the EEC, all the fishermen known to me were totally opposed to the Common Market.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am glad that the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) has anticipated my point.
It may be that the majority of fishermen were against the EEC from the beginning, but if one checks the record it shows that most of them did not vote the way that they said. In private conversation a number of them have said that they either voted to stay in or abstained. Fortunately, the figures show that the majority of people voted in favour of staying in. I am tempted these days to put an advertisement in the missing persons column of a newspaper to find out where they are, because I cannot find people who will admit that they voted to stay in. I see the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) signifying that he did, but we already know that he did.
§ Mr. James Johnson
We are all agreed here, and that is a happy position. The people who were in favour of the EEC were distant-water fishermen, because that is a much more capitalised industry, but the inshore fishermen were always against it, not our people in Hull or Fleetwood.
§ Mr. Hughes
We can now let confession time go past. Our position is much stronger than appears on paper, as the 1799 Minister said in his powerful speech. We are in a position to go it alone. One of the things that makes me more optimistic about our going it alone—unless I am now about to expose myself for not having read the most up-to-date news—is the position of Eire in Europe which is still hanging fire. One of the interesting things is that while Britain was taken to court over the pig subsidy and immediately rebuked, that did not happen in relation to the 50-mile limit of Eire. Eire was allowed to continue with the existing limit while the case went to proof, and that is still the position. The fact that there was not an immediate direction to the Eire Government to change that policy gives me hope that perhaps Eire's view will be recognised. That would have an immense impact on our position.
The Minister would not respond to the question about whether he had contingency plans for going it alone and he said that people should be assumed to be reasonable till proved otherwise. Of course, no one can reveal contingency plans before going into negotiations. We are in total agreement in demanding of the Commission and our partners that our special needs should be taken into account. The whole House should whole-heartedly agree on that.
On reflection, I hope that the Opposition will divide the House. I am sure that the Opposition do not want the motion to be carried, because if it were they would have their farming constituents on their necks. There would be no great enthusiasm even if the Opposition did decide to divide the House.
The Minister gave one of the best comprehensive reviews of the Government's approach to fishing that we have ever had. The matter of the CFP must be resolved or we cannot go any further. However, many of us have argued for a long time that it is not simply a matter of renegotiation and dealing with catch quota and limitations. Much more must be discussed.
There is the matter of what we should do about the size of the fishing fleet. A point that I noticed in the report of the White Fish Authority was that the Scottish inshore fleet was declining and that has started happening comparatively recently. It may be that the fleet must be 1800 stabilised, and that it must decline if conservation fails to keep stocks up. However, we should be worried, and we should be considering the size of the fleet and the kind of fleet that we want.
Aberdeen fishermen are worried about decasualisation in the middle- and deepwater fleet, but we cannot discuss that because we do not know how many men will be employed in the industry. There is a lot at stake. We must consider what will happen to consumer prices, because people are starting to resist buying fish.
As long as the Minister stands up for the rights of British fishermen in the way that he has in the past he will have our wholehearted support and one hopes that he will have the wholehearted support of the Opposition.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Stewart (Western Isles)
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) talked about persuading our Common Market partners of the lightness of our case. I do not think that there is much to be gained from that exercise. We need the more robust approach of the Minister of Agriculture. We should simply say that these are our decisions on fisheries and fishing grounds and that we believe that any objective fair outsider would agree that we have a good case. We should tell the Common Market that we shall not have fisheries carved up in the way that it has proposed.
I agree with the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and his strictures on the Tory Party. In view of their record it is hard-necked indeed for the Tories to put down such a motion. We said at various times during the negotiations before entering the EEC that the livelihood and future of inshore fishermen should be protected in the negotiations, but we found repeatedly that that aspect counted in but a minor way, if at all, with the negotiators of that day. The same demands were made of the Labour Government when it was their turn to renegotiate and I recall pointing out to the then Prime Minister that they did not even have the fishing industry on the agenda of matters to be discussed.
The crisis in the fishing industry has been developing for about 20 years. It was predictable and avoidable, and was precipitated by Governments who assumed that the resources of the sea 1801 were inexhaustible and could be plundered indiscriminately. This was compounded by the growth, particularly among continental fishermen, of industrial fishing, with small-mesh nets and trawls, in the spawning grounds. A high proportion of the product of this fishing was for reduction to cattle food. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) mentioned in a fisheries debate some months ago the case of the Shetland vessel "Langdale" fishing for pout. One-sixth of its catch of Norwegian pout was industrial fishing. The rest could have had a commercial value.
The EEC suggests reliance on a system of quotas as a method of conservation, but experience has shown that when quotas are intended to operate there is massive cheating. Scottish fishermen regard quota systems as unenforceable.
The Scottish position is different from that in England. Last year we had about 1,000 inshore vessels based in dozens of small communities around the coast. If stocks are not protected up to 100,000 jobs in fishing and ancillary industries will be lost. My party believes that British negotiators have not been tough enough—although we pay tribute to what the Minister is doing.
If the EEC will not accept an exclusive 50-mile zone there should be a unilateral decision by the Government to declare a 50-mile limit. The Common Market had no fisheries policy until it appeared that the British application was about to be approved. Common Market countries have no fishing grounds to put into the negotiations. With a 20-mile limit, the United Kingdom has 56 per cent, of the EEC's territorial waters, Belgium has 1 per cent., Denmark 5 per cent., France 5 per cent., Germany 2 per cent., Ireland 27 per cent, and the Netherlands 4 per cent. United Kingdom and Eire together have 83 per cent, of the waters, and, with a bilateral declaration, would have the greater part of the waters concerned.
The other countries of the Common Market are waiting for a carve-up. There is plenty of propaganda from the EEC about fisheries. No doubt, most hon. Members have received a copy of the magazine "Facts". It examines what the EEC calls fisheries' facts and myths. It says that one myth is that foreigners will come into "our" waters and take "our" 1802 fish. The word "our" is put into quotes as if to imply that they are not really our waters at all.
The magazine states as a fact that Eastern European countries are among the worst offenders in industrial fishing. No one would quarrel with that, but the worst offenders of all are the Danes, who are allegedly one of our Common Market partners.
The magazine also claims that young herrings originate off the Dutch coast. I have heard many discussions about where herrings originate, but I have never heard that suggestion. I should like to know what evidence the EEC has for that claim. The magazine says that the Dutch could catch these fish if they wanted to. They catch them now anyway. What the magazine claims as fact is actually myth and what it claims as myth is really fact.
I turn to a constituency point, namely, the herring ban in the North Sea. The Dutch have a concession of 1,500 tonnes for their Matje season. They made their case, and it would be a pity to deprive them. There are in my constituency two vessels that fish only for herring by drift net, and I ask that a similar concession should be granted to them. I had a letter recently from the Scottish Undersecretary turning down my request. There are people in my constituency who eat herring five days a week during the summer, and salt it in autumn for the following spring and summer. The ban is a great privation for them. I hope that the Minister will investigate this point in negotiations, and urge an exemption for these vessels. The other vessels in the fleet have no objection. If the Community cannot make such a concession, it is even more inhuman and bureaucratic than I think.
The Tory Party did not protect fisheries at the right time, and the Labour Party did not do so when it had the opportunity. Both are culpable in the eyes of Scottish fishermen. It was a bit thick for the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) to accuse the Minister of lacking muscle. In the eyes of Scottish fishermen the Minister is the most likely looking Samson from either party for many a day. We welcome the robust stand he has taken, and hope that he will be successful in the negotiations on behalf of our fishermen.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Grimsby)
A debate on fisheries has an air of unreality, because we are but pale reflections of the daily preoccupations of the industry, and because the audience for the debate is not here. Just as Aneurin Bevan found, in his pursuit of power, when he reached his local council, power was not there, when he reached Westminster, it was not there; and when he reached the Cabinet, it was not there: so the fishermen who sailed up the Thames on a protest demonstration recently would have found, if they had reached the House, the power is not here either. The power in this vital matter rests with the Commission and the Common Market.
Our preoccupation, therefore, is to voice the needs of the industry, to provide support for the efforts that the Minister is making in the Common Market, and to provide more power to his elbow and steel to his backbone by pressing unitedly the needs of the industry. We can do no less than that, because the fishing industry has never had in national priorities its place to which it is entitled by the employment it provides, the imports it saves and the way of life it sustains.
What are the needs of the industry? The most immediate need is for an early decision on its future. At present, the whole industry stands deadlocked. The distant water side is no more than ticking over because of the exclusion from Iceland and the curtailment of the effort in Norway and other grounds. Nothing can be done to remedy that situation or to reorganise the industry till these vital decisions are taken.
We have to decide where the main fishing effort will now lie, what size of vessel should be used, what sort of equipment will be necessary, what scale of Government support will be forthcoming, which waters will be fished, and what scale of effort will be made there. All these vital decisions have not been taken. Till they are they hold up the investment and re-equipment that the industry so vitally needs.
Another important decision concerns our exclusive waters. The industry, asked, first, for an exclusive zone of 100 miles, and then retreated—wrongly in my 1804 opinion—to a demand for an exclusive zone of 50 miles. I should think that all hon. Members will be in favour of a 50-mile exclusive zone for British fishermen, and hopes have risen monthly that a change in the common fisheries policy might be secured in negotiations.
Like the children's serials at the Saturday afternoon picture show, we thought every month that the climax would come —that Gundelach would be pinned to the rails by the express train racing for the 50-mile limit—but every month the negotiations have been deadlocked and the decision has been postponed. Every month the decision is not taken. This is because delay seems to suit everybody but this country. Delay particularly suits those nations, our Common Market partners, which are looting and pillaging the fishing grounds of this country while no decision is taken on the future of the common fisheries policy.
We are united in this House in saying that the kind of common fisheries policy that the Common Market wants is not a practical, viable proposition, that conservation measures can never be carried out in this common fashion. This is because a nation is the best guarantor of its own vital interests. And conservation of fish stocks is a vital interest to us. We know that any quota system soon becomes a mock auction as the total is bidded up beyond what is acceptable for conservation. We know that the Commission has no adequate way of policing a common fisheries policy because it has not got the expert staff and cannot even get its own proposals through the Council. We know that the proposals made so far show no recognition of our contribution to the Common Market pool, which is of the order of 60 per cent. Two-thirds of the fish stocks of the Community area are ours. There has been no recognition of that in allocating the quotas.
I recognise the Government's problems and I recognise that the pass has been sold in the lemming-like rush to Europe. I recognise, too, that we are now united, the industry is united, in demanding a 50-mile exclusive zone, but it is not just a matter of demanding a 50-mile zone. That is easy. The real question is what should be done if the negotiations for a common fisheries policy to give us a 50-mile exclusive zone break down and we do not get that. We can and must assume 1805 good will initially, but the test is, what should be done if the negotiations fail?
I should be interested to hear from the Opposition what their commitment is if these negotiations fail. What are they prepared to do, what stand are they prepared to take, if we do not get the 50-mile exclusive zone? Are they prepared to say that if we do not get it through negotiation we should take what is, after all, our right, that we should take it by regulation, that we should take it in three stages, the first stage being exclusion from the 50-mile zone of the fishing fleets of third parties except where reciprocal rights can be agreed; the second stage being the ending of industrial fishing in the 50-mile zone; and the third stage being the exclusion of our Common Market partners? I recognise why they will not give us a commitment. They cannot give us a commitment because of the problems it will provoke with the Common Market. Are they prepared to say that we should take the 50-mile limit if we do not get it through negotiations?
The third need of the industry is one that becomes immediate because of the unanimity within the industry produced by the common fisheries policy. Traditionally it is an industry which has been divided into different sections with different interests. The interest of the merchants, who want to get fish coming through, is different from that of the catchers, because the merchants will take fish no matter where it comes from, even Icelandic catches, as is the case in my constituency, Grimsby. And the interests of the inshore fishermen are different from those of the distant-water fishermen. All this has prevented them from speaking until now with a common voice, but the present situation has produced a united industry, and the industry must now seize the opportunity to put its own house in order by creating a united pressure group. We, too, should seize the opportunity by creating for that industry some kind of development council, a NEDC for fishing, which can plot strategies, plan investment, forecast demand and channel investments into the areas and ports where it is vitally necessary. I should like to see this trend towards unity completed by the creation of a ministry of fisheries to put the demands of the industry to the Government.
1806 In conclusion, I urge my hon. Friends to recognise that this is not just another industry. I urge them to recognise that this is not a party political issue, that this is not even one of those negotiating counters which are pushed forward and pulled back and eventually possibly lost in the protracted negotiations with the Common Market. This is a vital national interest, an industry which is threatened in a way it has never been before, and which, I hope, the whole House will support by backing the kind of efforts that the Minister is making in Europe, and saying to Europe both that the 50-mile exclusive zone is essential for the British industry and that this is a need from which this House will not retreat.
§ 6.38 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Hicks (Bodmin)
I think that speakers from all sections of the House who have contributed to today's debate, or indeed, will speak later, agree that the present situation of the common fisheries policy as it affects our own United Kingdom fishing industry is totally unsatisfactory. This policy was, after all, hastily conceived in 1970. It took no account whatsoever of the subsequent enlargement of the membership through the membership of the Republic of Ireland, and of Denmark, as well as ourselves—three countries which together produce over 80 per cent, of the total fish catch of the EEC.
I believe that no useful purpose whatsoever is served on these occasions by merely mounting a sterile argument— indeed, a sterile battle—over which party when in office was the one most responsible for this present unsatisfactory situation. It is no good hon. Members from the Scottish National Bench talking to me about this. In January 1971, the first occasion on which this House had a debate on the negotiations then taking place in respect of the United Kingdom's possible entry into the EEC, it so happened that I made my maiden speech, and on that occasion, during the course of two days, only two hon. Members mentioned the problem of inshore fishing. So both parties are indeed responsible, and I believe that absolutely no purpose is served by just dragging up these sterile arguments.
§ Mr. Hicks
Furthermore, there is no doubt in my mind that the principal purpose of the kind of debate we are having today is to impress upon both our European partners and the Government the concern of this House for our own United Kingdom fishing industry, in particular in regard to the present proposals to find acceptable solutions for the Community's common fisheries policy problems.
We have had a series of proposals emanating from either the Commission or the Council of Ministers since the formulation of the common fisheries policy and most of us agree that all fall short of what we consider to be necessary for our United Kingdom fishing industry. After all, during the course of the last year or so we have, on the one hand, lost major fishing grounds traditionally used by our deep-sea fleet, and, on the other, more recently, with the extension of the territorial limit to 200-miles, found ourselves in the situation of the United Kingdom providing over 60 per cent. of the fishing waters of that enlarged area. Therefore we believe that we have a special requirement, which has not been met hitherto by any of the proposals that have emanated from Brussels.
Members of this House who take an interest in fishing matters will welcome in general terms the approach to a system of community licensing for all vessels from non-EEC countries and the move towards the adoption of more effective conservation and management of resources. In no way do these add up to the ultimate requirements if we are to sustain a meaningful United Kingdom fishing industry.
I sense that I shall, perhaps, be the only contributor to the debates from the southern part of the United Kingdom, particularly the West Country, but I make no apology for concentrating on the difficulties facing our West Country inshore fishing industry. We have faced a traumatic experience in the past two years or so, largely as a result of the overfishing of mackerel.
This was highlighted only yesterday in evidence given to the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee by the Ministry's own Director of Fishery Research. He is reported as having said that mackerel catches off Cornwall in 1975 and 1976 had been about 500,000 tonnes in each year and that 1808 about 100,000 tonnes of that was caught by United Kingdom fishing vessels. Scientists of the International Council for Exploration of the Sea have recommended a total catch of 240,000 tonnes of mackerel per year. In other words, for the past two years, mackerel have been fished at double the advised rate. In Cornish coastal waters 400,000 tonnes have been taken by non-United Kingdom vessels. Of this total, approximately 200,000 tonnes were taken by fishing vessels of the Soviet Union.
I appreciate that the exclusion of some foreign fleets from these waters and the licensing of a limited number of others should, in theory, lighten the pressure on mackerel stocks off the South-West Coast of England. However, I urge on the Government the fact that there is still widespread apprehension felt by all sections of the inshore fishing industry.
We have seen this situation in the past. Older fishermen remember that herring were very common in West Country coastal waters, but this is no longer so. There was also a time when pilchards were plentiful, but they declined, too. The inshore fishermen justifiably fear that the same thing will happen with mackerel because of overfishing.
Although the overfishing has been largely caused by vessels from third countries—non-EEC countries—in the past two years the problem has been accentuated by a limited number of large vessels from Scotland and other parts of the United Kingdom. The reasons are clear for all to see. Our exclusion from the traditional distant waters has put pressure on the middle waters, and those boats which traditionally fished the middle waters have been obliged to come to the United Kingdom coastal waters.
In the past there has been a good supply of mackerel, but the key question is, how long can these shoals last? This is causing grave concern to local fishermen. Indeed, it is a reflection of the fundamental problem confronting the fishing industry, namely, that our national catching capacity exceeds the availability of markets.
Hon. Members and the various sections of the fishing industry have different ideas about how to solve the problem. In the South-West I believe that, in the short term, particularly with regard to mackerel, 1809 we can solve the problem unilaterally and legally without offending any of our EEC colleagues. The solution lies in the introduction of firm methods of conservation, involving the size of boats, net meshes and so on. This applies primarily to coastal waters where, apart from France and Belgium which have limited historic rights, we have exclusive control at present.
We must also take into account the international situation in respect of the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy, which is causing great concern to our inshore fishermen. We are vulnerable because we are just across the English Channel from our European partners.
Cornwall is a development area, which implies a high level of unemployment and a shortage of suitable alternative occupations. It is an area where incomes are 12 per cent. below the national average. About 200 boats regularly fish from Cornwall, providing direct employment for 1,000 people. This may not sound many when compared with figures for other parts of the United Kingdom, but, in the context of the local and sub-regional economy, all these jobs are very significant. The jobs are also associated with other economic activities, the obvious ones being the freezing, packing, selling and transportation of fish.
The industry also has an integral link with the tourist industry. Why do people come to places like Looe and Polperro in Cornwall? One reason is that they are extremely picturesque parts of the world. Another reason is that the villages are still alive. They are not dominated by the second homes of absentee owners who come only for the odd weekend. There is a live fishing community in those areas. People come there to see the fishing industry, to take an interest in it, to watch the fishermen. Tourism and fishing are intimately connected.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Would the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a bit pointless to cry over spilt milk when the milk was spilt by the Tory Party—his party which took us into the Common Market? I know that some people would like to forget that the Tory Party led us into this situation. The hon. Gentleman may be interested to know that the town of 1810 Lossiemouth in my constituency will be a ghost town if we do not obtain a 50-mile exclusive zone. I sympathise with the social point that he made, but it is no good crying over milk spilt by his own party.
§ Mr. Hicks
I did not hear anything said at that time on this subject by the Liberal Party. The Liberal spokesman who followed me on that occasion was the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. Johnston). I remember it exactly. Furthermore, I see no point in going over all this ground, because both major parties bear part of the responsibility. Members of the Labour Party may say that the Conservatives were not strong enough in the original negotiations between 1970 and 1972. Members of the Conservative Party may say that the present Government were not firm enough in the renegotiations of 1975. Like all minority parties, which can afford to be all things to all people at all times, Liberals can only take credit for always pointing out blame but never having any responsibility.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is more difficult to have a renegotiation than to have a negotiation in the first place? A negotiation starts from strength, whereas renegotiation starts from a subordinate position. The test is not which side was right in 1972 or in 1975. The ultimate test is which side is prepared to take a stand for the rights of this country and this country's fishermen if the common fisheries policy cannot be changed in a way favourable to our case.
§ Mr. Hicks
I am not the shadow Minister of Agriculture, nor am I in any way responsible for the formulation of our policy, but what I would put on record is that possession is nine-tenths of the game, usually, and we have something like 60 per cent. plus in our hand at present. That is my own view, as a humble Back Bench member of my party.
To conclude, I hope that as a result of this debate the Government are very much aware of the genuine depth of feeling, particularly in rural areas where the fishing industry is important. I hope that they are aware that any action that they may take which will threaten the livelihood of those inshore fishermen will have very severe consequences also for the local economy of those areas. I welcome the statement made by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food this afternoon. He has no easy task next week when these negotiations are continued. As has already been said, we have put forward in answer to the Commission our proposal involving variable exclusive areas. It was also reported that for the South-West this involved a distance of 35 miles. I hope that those reports were not accurate. It is necessary for the House this evening to demonstrate to the Government that a 50-mile limit over which we have exclusive control in respect of management, control of resources, conservation and licensing is essential. I hope that this is the message the House will give the Minister to take to Brussels next week.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
This debate is important and timely, because next week the Minister enters the next crucial round of discussions on the common fisheries policy. He does so in the knowledge that Members in all parts of the House back the industry's claim for a 50-mile limit.
The degree of common view, not always apparent in debate, had already become apparent in the all-party Fisheries Group. Those who have attended its meetings regularly know on what broad agreement it has been able to proceed recently in pressing the claims of the fishing industry. There was no better 1812 demonstration of that unanimity than the support I gratefully received from Members of all parties when I introduced my Ten-Minute Bill, which has now passed Second Reading. There is scarcely any hon. Member who would not be prepared to go further with that Bill in order to make it clear that the willingness to take unilateral action is now widespread.
It would be unwise to break that spirit of unanimity tonight by proceeding to, of all things, a vote on the Adjournment. There are many Members, not least on the Government side, who believe that the House ought to proceed to the business which is already on the Order Paper for the rest of the evening. It would be pointless and undesirable to seek to defeat the carrying on of that business and in no way to express an opinion on the vital issue before us. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) was right when he said that it would have been better if we had had before us a substantive motion on the 50-mile limit which all hon. Members could have supported. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) stressed how important it was that the opinion should go clearly out from this House that we support the industry and wish to press that support upon the Minister. I see no way in which a vote on the Adjournment can assist that. It will be much wiser if, on reflection, the Conservative Front Bench, when it has heard the remainder of the speeches, withdraws from the curious decision which it seems to have taken and ensures that the unanimous view of the House is reflected, and that nobody is confused about the feelings of the House. There is no doubt from what has happened already that there is overwhelming support for the industry's case and overwhelming determination to back it. That is what we should reflect, not some party division on whether we should continue after 10 o'clock.
The key to the industry's case is the conservation point, although there is also the point of the needs and problems of the British industry. We would never be so hypocritical as Iceland was at certain stages in pretending that we were concerned solely with conservation and not with the particular rights and needs of our own industry.
Let us look first at conservation. I am sorry to say that I have no reason to 1813 believe that the Commission or any of the other member States understand the need for conservation, are willing to institute appropriate measures, or are capable of getting their industries to comply with such measures. There is little evidence that they understand the need for conservation.
When I see member States opposing the herring ban, the necessity for which must be obvious to all, I am astounded at the lack of appreciation of scientifically established fact which is involved. It is apparent that the herring fisheries will disappear entirely—they have already become perilously close to doing so—if we do not maintain restrictions on herring fisheries. For member States to proceed with happy abandon with the scale of industrial fishing, which is causing enormous damage, is further evidence that they do not understand or care about the need for conservation.
The lack of willingness to institute appropriate measures is illustrated by their devotion to quotas, the limitations of which we all know, the near unenforceability of which we all know, and the doubts about which are apparent to anybody who knows the fishing industry well. The ability of member countries to get their industries to comply is shown to be deficient by the well-known instance of the interpretation of the regulations to French fishermen by their own Government, and by some other more recent cases.
There is a disturbing case about which I have been told which does not reflect very well on the instructions being given to our own enforcement vessels. There are reports of an East Coast incident involving a chase after six Belgian fishing vessels, one of which was caught and subsequently boarded. The vessel was fishing for scampi with a very small-mesh net shaped like a lady's stocking. The catch consisted of about one-third prawns and two-thirds white fish, many of which were under-sized. The fisheries officer said that he had contacted London expecting to be ordered to make an arrest but had subsequently been told to release the vessel. Such cases should be investigated promptly.
I would hate to be following the example of some of our Community partners on the enforcement side. We are all convinced that we alone have the 1814 capacity to mount effective enforcement. It can be done at present only by national Governments. There is not the capability, let alone the willingness, to do this on a Community scale. No one can demonstrate an alternative to action by national Governments for effective conservation measures.
My constituents and those of other hon. Members from fishing areas have had to suffer a great deal in the interests of conservation, and they have been prepared to do so. I take the herring industry as an example. There happens to be off my constituency, in the area of the Farne Islands, the Longstone herring fishery, a small pocket where the stocks have been carefully fished on a well-controlled basis. It is generally accepted that there is no threat to the future of that fishery as there is to the North Sea fishery in general. Most scientists who know it accept that it is renewing itself and is not under immediate threat.
In the interests of obtaining general conservation, fishermen from my constituency have had to accept the general herring ban and watch the Dutch catching herring, not in their own area, for their festival purposes, while they themselves are denied access to what is a successfully conserved herring fishery. If there is to be any relaxation, they should have priority.
The wider herring ban has also affected my constituency. As any lover of kippers will know, the production of the famous Craster kippers has been drastically reduced. Those kippers, eaten all over Europe and the United Kingdom, are smoked at Craster in my constituency. Not enough herring are now landed, and so another small local industry is seriously threatened, and with it the future livelihood of those who work in it. In every other fishery one can quote similar examples.
We cannot ask British fishermen to accept strict conservation measures if they are not convinced that fishermen from other member countries who come into our waters, within 200 miles, 50 miles and even 12 miles of our coast, are subject to the same limitations. We have far from even a general 12-mile limit around our coasts. As a result of the decisions made on our initial entry, sections of 1815 the coast have only a six-mile limit, and Northumberland is one of them.
The fishing industry of this country faces an emergency. We must have control and the primary responsibility for conservation all around our coasts. We shall suffer a great deal if we do not, and if the fish that are caught are caught by vessels from other nations. It is often said that all around the coasts of Scotland are small fishing villages. In many parts of England there are similar small communities dependent on fishing and with ancillary industries providing almost the only sources of local employment.
Will they find words of comfort in the documents before us? Document 1173/77 refers to the possibility ofspecific measures of limited scope to allow for localised biological conditions and certain disquieting socio-economic or socio-structural situations, while at the same time not distorting the general effect of measures in the preceding category".Does that mean that the EEC is worried about Seahouses and Craster and about the communities around our coasts? It does not read like that to me.
§ Mr. Mark Hughes (Durham)
In the European Parliament I mentioned just those places in introducing the document.
§ Mr. Beith
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, and I am glad that he seems to be spending his holidays in my constituency. As he attends the European Parliament, I am sure that he knows better than I what those curious phrases mean.
There is precious little evidence that so far the Community understands the problem or that it is prepared to act. The Commission has the strange idea that if one is about to kill off an industry one must find grants and give it money so that the people involved go away and do something else. My constituents do not want to go away and do something else. They want to catch fish for as long as fish can be conserved for the catching. My constituents have the skills and experience to do that, and there is no reason why they should give way to vessels from elsewhere. There is no reason why they should give up the craft that they have traditionally operated and are best skilled to carry out carefully and moderately.
1816 If one good thing has come out of this very worrying time for the industry, this dreadful situation, it is that, faced by a common threat, there is more unity in the industry than I have ever known. I am very impressed by it. There are substantial differences of interest on how the waters which will be available to us if we achieve our objects will be apportioned between the section of the industry which has retreated from deep waters and the inshore section. Those are problems that we must resolve. I am more convinced than ever that the industry is becoming capable of resolving them. The industry's organisations have improved enormously, both in their capacity to represent the industry and, equally important, in their attempts to put their own house in order. The industry is going a long way with self-policing, and tries to make sure that it has a record to be proud of.
The Government must recognise and encourage these developments. I wish to suggest two constructive responses they could make. First, they should encourage and support the producer organisations which have developed in the industry and the new federation of producer organisations in England. They should give more recognition to the work these organisations are doing. In particular, they should help them take on the quota management powers which the sea fisheries legislation in 1976 put on the statute book. The Government could show that they see in the producer organisations the basis for effective representation of the sections of the industry involved, and for self-policing and management by the industry of its own affairs. Fishermen most respect the judgment of other fishermen, and they are showing an increasing willingness to work together on conservation matters.
Secondly, the Government should look again at their own organisations involved in fishing, to see whether we have an ideal structure. The statutory and legal basis for the White Fish Authority comes up for review shortly, and that will give an opportunity to examine the Authority, the Herring Industry Board and the county sea fisheries committees. There is considerable scope for working out the best structure for these Government organisations. We see some curious things in my constituency, where there are four 1817 separate bodies with conservation responsibilities, each running its own vessels for the purpose. The Navy has vessels in the outer waters. The Northumberland Sea Fisheries Committee has its own vessel engaged on protection and conservation duties. The Northumbrian Water Authority has a vessel at sea off my constituency. The River Tweed Commissioners have a small boat in the area of sea off Berwick for which they are responsible. There needs to be a means for these organisations to work more closely together. They may not all be appropriate for the job. Those parts of the Ministry of Agriculture in England and the Department of Agriculture in Scotland that are not occupied in the present negotiations could examine these matters, and I hope that there has already been some discussion about them.
In conclusion, I return to the main issue, which is, the need to secure protection, at least within 50 miles of the coasts of the United Kingdom, of the fish stocks there, and to see that our own fishermen have the first claim on them. It will be no use the Minister's returning to the House without some means of fully protecting our industry. If the other countries of the Community send him back empty-handed, he knows, and the Community should know, that there is widespread willingness and determination in the House to act on our own. I say that as somebody who believed, and still believes, that in its own wider interests Britain should be a member of the Community. I equally believe that it is essential that this piece of unfinished business be properly dealt with.
If the Community cannot see that it will have to face with us and with Ireland an interminable wrangle in which we shall have to stand up for our own rights and interests and protect them even if doing so carries us into the European Court and heaven knows where else. We shall have to take that action if the Minister is unable to return saying that he has found the means to protect what we know is so important.
§ 7.10 p.m.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I thoroughly enjoyed the speech by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith). However, I wish to comment on the speech of the 1818 hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks), who said that he was the only speaker who came from the South-West peninsula. Like him, I was interested in the opening speech by the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton). I have almost forgotten it, it was so inadequate and skimpy. I was shocked to hear the hon. Member for Bodmin say that the Minister was not doing his job or that he lacked the guts to do it.
We had an international exhibition in Hull on Wednesday last week, followed by a conference on Thursday. All these matters, and many others, were discussed. I defy anyone to talk to people in the fishing industry who were at that conference—whether inshore or deep water— and to say that therere is not the deepest admiration for all that the Minister is attempting to do and for the way in which he is tackling the problem. I am a little puzzled about why there should be a vote tonight.
The hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) is always lucid, and today he made many fine suggestions. Although there are 60 vessels in South Down, he deserves for that speech a deep-sea fleet such as that of Hull, with more than 100 vessels.
Mention has been made of the White Fish Authority and its annual report. I have known the Chairman of the Authority, Charles Meek, for many years. I first met him when he was Colonial Secretary in the old Tanganyika. He is a man of the highest integrity and he has used the words "confidence trick" about the CAP. I fully endorse his opinion about the CAP and the way in which we got into it. We all know that the policy was cobbled together by the Six members in a few days, not long before we entered the Community. The right hon. and learned Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) should be thoroughly ashamed of himself for sanctioning our entry under those terms. However, that is all in the past.
In today's debate, hon. Members identify themselves with their constituents. In no other industry—and I include mining—can an hon. Member so closely identify himself and feel in harmony with his constituents. Although I am not a skipper, I feel as keenly as my constituents about the difficulties of fishing in 1819 areas where we fished before, particularly off Iceland. I feel strongly about their present plight.
I speak in a sombre mood because, although it is not all gloom, no one can have any cheer in his heart for this industry in 1977. Shipyards are not building vessels. No ships over 80 ft. in length are being built. Skippers have fewer vessels to command and deckhands are on the dole. We are the Cinderellas in this situation.
I agree with the suggestion that we need a Secretary of State to look after the interests of fishing. In Brussels, we need a Commissioner for Fisheries instead of being part of the responsibility of the Commissioner for Agriculture. I would support any move by the Government to set up a little Neddy for the industry.
I ask the House to look at all difficulties looming ahead. What is to be the shape and size of the fleet in these changing conditions? What about decasualisation, and the mood of the men and how they feel about conditions of work on the deck? That is particularly important in bigger ports such as Hull and Grimsby.
I turn to the EEC documents. If they tell us anything, it is that if the EEC policy stands, not merely shall we have over-fishing but some places will be fished out. The farmer allows his land to lie fallow from time to time. The only occasion when our seas are stocked with fish is at the end of a war. After the last war against Hitler the fishermen had a bonanza. Such situations do not last long. Conservation is the name of the game. These documents are full of such matters as total allowable catches and allocated quotas.
What are fair shares? Fishermen, like other men, cheat. Men cheat at cards and with women. Without doubt our partners are cheating. The Dutch are over-fishing off Dogger Bank. The French take 80 per cent. of their total catch from our waters, fishing mainly off the South-West peninsula. There is no doubt that hon. Members will have to face incursions into the south-west waters of the Channel from our own vessels.
If our distant-water boats cannot get to Iceland and have only a minuscule share of fish from the Norwegian area, 1820 it is clear that we must catch fish elsewhere. Some of our vessels that have been fishing off Iceland will go southwest and fish for mackerel. That will be poor cheer for some hon. Members opposite.
Hon. Members have talked of natural justice and equity concerning our position inside the Community. There is no doubt that the key to conservation is enforcement. We must have a bigger, better and tougher fisheries flotilla to keep out poachers. There is no natural justice in our fishing situation. No other EEC commodity is treated like fish. Our partners do not believe that they must have a share in any of our other resources. No Belgian or Dutch farmer expects to have a share of land in East Yorkshire, for instance. But, by 1982, Belgian and Dutch fishermen will be fishing a few yards off Spurn Point. They will then be fishing up to the high-water mark—unless policy is changed.
What is to be the future of the distant water fleet? We could alone have negotiated bilateral arrangements with Norway, the Soviet Union and other nations that would have given us adequate shares of the catch. To put it bluntly, the Norwegians fear that other nations will not keep any agreements that they make, but they do not believe that about us. Instead of achieving a settlement alone, we are now inside the team of Nine. We experience endless procrastination and delay. That suits the book of our EEC partners, who can then continue fishing within present limits because no definite decision is being made.
What appals me is that our EEC partners are demanding and expecting to get shares in fishing north of 62 degrees north latitude, where they have never fished previously, so here we are getting a diminished share of any total quotas that the EEC gets, and we shall get doubly diminished shares if our EEC partners want to fish where they have never fished previously.
Concerning Iceland, my view is that after the cod wars we shall now get nothing. No honest Member of this House—of course, we are all honourable Members—can really go to his constituents and tell them that he thinks that we shall get anything. I do not think so.
1821 The sum total of all this is a scarifying prospect for Hull, Fleetwood, Grimsby and other places. Where do our men go? Our fleet in Hull has been denuded. Not so long ago we had over 120 vessels, as the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) knows. That figure is now down to 60. I am talking not about boats of 80 feet but about boats of 140 feet and over, boats as long as 72 feet, and costing £1 million. Here we are having to scrap boats of that kind.
Where do we go? Iceland—nil. Norway—a fraction; perhaps, if we are lucky, 20,000 or 30,000 tonnes. The Soviets do not accept the EEC as an entity in this bargaining matter. Therefore, where do we stand? Do we send vessels to the Falklands to have an Anglo-Argentine cooperative off South Georgia? We all know the political difficulties there. At the end of the day we are now having to send our boats in pairs, with skippers, mates and crews, to Perth in Western Australia, Lagos in Nigeria and so on. Indeed, perhaps part of our future lies in having partnerships with Commonwealth countries or other States for fishing in that particular fashion.
Other States exclude us from their waters. Can we exclude them? Today the cards are completely different. We cannot negotiate separately. It is a ludicrous position. We are dependent upon a Danish Commission, Mr. Gundelach. Commissioner Gundelach has visited Hull. Many of us heard him there. He gave a polished performance that was worthy of any Whitehall mandarin. I say that with all respects to the Whitehall mandarins. However, he was equally ineffective upon his audience. Indeed no one in the university in Hull was impressed.
I have always thought it cheap to use the word "bureaucrat" about our public servants—but we have some in Brussels. Our people here fight for the United Kingdom, but where lie the loyalties and attachments of international civil servants? They lie in Brussels and in the organisation there. I do not think that I am a chauvinist. I spent five years as Chairman of the Fisheries Committee of the Council of Europe. I have been over there in the last few months, in the company of colleagues in this House, talking with senior civil servants there. In my judgment, the EEC is completely unde- 1822 pendable in this context. Therefore, what can we do?
I conclude by following the tenor of the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed. As a fisheries Member of Parliament, I have no doubt whatever that there is no equity in the present situation. As the hon. Gentleman said, the all-party committee does not contain a dissenting voice. Its 40 or 50 fisheries Members all feel the same way. We believe that there is no equity in the present situation and that it must, therefore, change. We think that the documents before us today and others like them are unjust—in fact, indecent. Therefore, the situation must be altered as soon as possible.
We believe that Eire and the United Kingdom both vitally need a 50-mile exclusive economic zone—no less than Norway wished to safeguard her waters before negotiations began. The hon. Member for Berwick-on-Tweed has introduced his Bill. I think that it went through on the nod last Friday. Some people say that that Bill is superfluous and allege that we have powers in the 200-miles extended limits legislation that was passed a few months ago. If we wished to do so and had the will, we could do this.
Next Monday the Minister will be in Luxembourg. I do not think that he will get anything there that is worth fetching back. It is all Lombard Street to an orange that he will get nothing in the negotiations. Therefore, I believe that the Government—and I speak from the Government Benches—should proclaim a 50-mile limit. Let us be taken to the International Court. After all, we were taken there over pigmeat not long ago——
§ Mr. Johnson
—so let us go there and await what happens. I think that we shall be in good company with the Irish.
Finally, the Minister gave a pledge last week in Hull that he would fight for the industry, and he made a startling impression. People believe in his sincerity and efficiency. They believe that if anyone can do the job, he will do it. I believe that the industry still has plenty of old-fashioned British guts in it, and I hope that there is plenty of old-fashioned British guts somewhere else. We had a 1823 fisheries demonstration on the Thames last week. It was a huge success. Let us have a "demo" like that go to the Scheldt, the Seine, the Weser and the Elbe and convince people there that people here mean what they say.
I know that the Minister will do all that he possibly can. I wish him all power to his elbow. If he will only fight, he can be quite certain that he has the full backing not merely of fisheries Members but of all those in the House who want our people to do something worthwhile in the EEC.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wall (Haltemprice)
I think that the House knows that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and myself are nearly always in agreement over the basic fundamentals affecting the fisheries industry. I certainly agree with what he said about our backing for the industry's demand for an exclusive zone of up to 50 miles. I also agree with his criticism of the EEC. I agree with him, too, that on broader issues, other than the fishing industry, it is to the great advantage of this country to remain within the EEC, although on the narrow ground of fisheries we have considerable criticism of the EEC.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Whatever the hon. Gentleman may say about himself or myself, he knows that I was the only Humberside Member on the Government side of the House who was in favour of Britain entering the Common Market, and I still believe in such an association— but on this matter, no.
§ Mr. Wall
That is exactly the point that I was making. We both believe that it is to the advantage of this country to be in and to remain within the EEC, although we both agree that it has severe disadvantages for the fishing industry.
The only thing over which I would slightly quarrel with the hon. Gentleman is the question of where the blame lies. I do not labour the point. Both major parties must accept certain blame for the present position. Certainly the Conservative Party negotiated our original entry, but I remind the House that at that time we were considering a 12-miles exclusive zone, and no one would have thought of 200 miles at that period. When it came to renegotiating, if the hon. Gentleman 1824 looks at Hansard he will see that on a number of occasions at Question Time I raised the point that the CFP should be renegotiated before we had the referendum. That the Government failed to do. That is why we criticise them. I agree that both parties share a certain amount of blame, but the 200-mile issue became an issue only at the time of the renegotiation. The main argument therefore took place then, and the Minister was pressed time and time again about it. There were several matters the Government said had to be settled before they agreed to our entry. The Minister of that time was urged to make the common fisheries question one of them, and he did not.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
When the initial fisheries policy was cobbled together it was stated that in 1982 there would be no limits. The question of 12-, 50- or 200-mile limits arose subsequently, but it does not affect the basic position that control over fishing limits was totally given away by the hon. Gentleman's party.
§ Mr. Wall
It will be recalled that at the tune we were involved with Iceland, and the general consensus in the world related to a 12-mile limit. Then it became 50 miles and now the norm is 200 miles. Both parties have a share in the blame, but the hon. Gentleman's party has considerably more blame attaching to it for the reason I have given. But this is all water under the bridge, and we have to consider the future.
There are two basic problems to be considered today. One of them does not much involve the EEC and the other definitely does. The first is the future of the distant-water fleet. The report of the White Fish Authority, which has only just come out, states that in 1974 there were 163 distant-water vessels. In the few years since then Grimsby has lost 18, Hull 12 and Leith 14.
The position is really considerably worse than that. While the report was at the printers the position deteriorated. The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West knows only too well that a large number of trawlers are laid up in the docks in his constituency which are still regarded by the owners as operational—or the owners are hoping they will still remain so. But it may well be that quite a large number of them will never go to sea again. That is the difficult position facing the owners of the distant-water vessels. 1825 Indeed, in opening the debate I think the Minister said that the loss in terms of catch was about £80 million.
It is quite clear that the future of the distant-water industry is very grim indeed. The writing was on the wall way back in 1948 when the Icelandic Parliament authorised the Government of Iceland to go out to the Continental Shelf. First they went to 12 miles, then to 50 and then to 200. As I said earlier, 200 miles has now become the norm. We quarrelled with the Icelanders—quite rightly, in my view—because they took unilateral action. They got away with it each time. That is what has really put the whole future of the distant-water industry into jeopardy. That is what led to the three cod wars.
If the Hull, Grimsby, Fleetwood and Aberdeen trawlers can no longer fish in Icelandic waters, what other courses are open to them? First, they can fish within our own 200-mile zone. The point has already been made that they will fish off the ports of the South-West, or certain Scottish ports, and we shall then have complaints in this House that their vessels catch more fish in one day than the locals catch in a week or a month.
The Minister in due course will have to legislate on this, otherwise we shall have major rows within our fishing industry, and both sides would be in the right from their own point of view. The Minister will have to consider this very seriously indeed.
The second alternative is to have a swapping arrangement—herring for cod, for example—with various other countries. I have been to Iceland in recent times and I am convinced that none of our vessels will be allowed into Icelandic waters for fishing until the end of next year. I say this because there is likely to be a general election in Iceland in June next year, and neither party can afford to make any concession before then.
In any case, Icelanders have said to me "It is not much good our allowing your vessels in to fish for cod until we can fish for herring in the North Sea, and you have fished out the North Sea to the extent that it will take 18 months for the herring stocks to recover." For these reasons I believe that Iceland will be a write-off for some time to come.
As for Norway, when the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West and I went 1826 to discuss these matters in the EEC, I got the impression that we would get an agreement with Norway which would allow possibly 30 distant-water vessels from our country to fish in Norwegian waters. Seventy per cent. of the foreign catch in Norwegian waters was caught by British vessels, but since then, unfortunately, Norway has taken action and has imposed a unilateral cod quota of 54,000 tons for this year, as compared to the 98,000 tons which the British alone landed last year. That is a very serious restriction indeed on what remains of the distant-water fleet.
The position is more serious—this is where the EEC is involved—because the EEC is doing the negotiating with Norway, and when the foreign quota is decided it will be divided between the EEC members. In the past, as I have indicated, British vessels took 70 per cent. of the fish in those waters. Shall we get 70 per cent. of the EEC quota? I very much doubt it. We shall have to fight very hard in this respect.
The next possibility is to fish further afield. Already some Hull trawlers are going to Australia and, I hope, to New Zealand, to set up joint companies in that part of the world. I think this will be very successful from the point of view of catching fish and feeding the population of Australasia, but it will not help feed our people at home, and the skippers and crews will virtually have to emigrate to that part of the world.
But there are the Falkland Islands. We have greatly neglected them. I refer to a paragraph in a letter sent to me by Mr. David Toulson of the Confederation of Fried Fish Caterers' Associations. It states:We know from the Argentinians that they catch 160,000 tons of fish between the Argentine and the Falkland Islands. This compares with the 170,000 tons from Icelandic waters last year. On the other side of the Falklands the German research vessels are catching six tons of fish an hour. This is only one eighth of the potential fishing area and we therefore know there are vast quantities of fish to be caught. If research was carried out introducing spawning cod and haddock into these waters then the fishing prospects would become even greater and more attractive.We should follow this up. Some Hull trawler owners have made experimental voyages to the Falklands. I have taken up this question with the Foreign Office and received very dusty replies. It is 1827 obviously unwilling to encourage British trawlers to fish off the Falklands because it may exacerbate the situation with regard to Argentine. I believe that this is very wrong. We have commitments to the Falklands and to our own fishing industry. This is not germane to fishing but let us not forget that the Falkland Islands include a section of Antarctica, and the mineral resources in that part of the world may be vital to the future of this country.
These are the courses open to us, and they do not offer very much scope, therefore the effect on the distant-water industry in Hull in particular will be very serious indeed. Owners have not yet scrapped their ships but many of them will go. Some of these vessels cost £1 million each and have a crew of 30 to 35. For every man at sea five are employed on shore. No fewer than 2,500 jobs have already gone, and there is 10 per cent. male unemployment in that area. It can be seen that the effect on the distant-water industry is wholly disastrous.
I now turn briefly to the other section in which the EEC is distinctly involved. That is the inshore industry. I agree with what has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House in demanding an exclusive zone. We demand this— my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) made the point very clearly in opening the debate—because of the Danes' industrial fishing, which sweeps the sea clear, and must be stopped. It is to some extent checked by some of the regulations which we have considered in this House recently. There is also the problem of the Belgian beam trawlers off the South Coast, which are far too efficient in their methods and are spoiling the fishing grounds with their beams. Above all, we have the problem of the French, who disregard the rules.
My right hon. Friend quoted a letter from my constituent, Basil Parks. I asked the Minister today how many infringements of North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission rules on mesh sizes and the landing of immature fish have been reported by various nations. The list supplied by the Minister will be in Hansard tomorrow. The figures show that in regard to mesh sizes and undersized fish the French have five or 1828 six times more infringements than other countries. We are ourselves not blameless but the French record is bad and the figures only show those that have been caught.
The hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed mentioned the case of the Belgian trawler that was arrested. HMS "Achilles" was the frigate that was involved. The vessel was found to have nets for prawning, but two-thirds of her catch was white fish. HMS "Achilles" asked the Ministry what to do and was told not to make an arrest. There may be a special reason, but this has caused considerable concern in the fishing industry. We ought to have arrested that trawler.
However, we know of the reaction when we do arrest trawlers. When a French trawler was recently arrested all the other vessels blockaded their home port in protest. The French do not regard these rules as rules. Whether the blame lies with the French Government, which does not promulgate the rules, or whether it lies with the fishermen who ignore them I do not know. But it is a matter which must be put right if we are to have any form of fishery conservation in the EEC.
I turn to the issue of protection. We have a great responsibility inside the 200 miles. I agree that catch quotas are absolutely useless and that we must have effort quotas—in other words, fishing by named vessels. These vessels should be fitted with IFF so that they can be recognised and their numbers should be painted on them so that they can be seen from the air.
Incidentally, Nimrod is such a sophisticated aircraft that it cannot even talk to the trawlers. It can talk to satellites and almost anything else but not to trawlers. That is a fantastic position. Once Nimrod does spot a chap poaching, we should arrest the trawler and take it into port. We can do that only by ship. The Island Class is too slow. They may be seaworthy vessels, but what is also needed are fast vessels that will react quickly in arresting a vessel when spotted by aircraft.
We also need cheaper aircraft than Nimrod, because Nimrod will suffer from metal fatigue, and we should use Nimrod for military occasions. If we use it 1829 entirely for fishery protection it becomes a very expensive aircraft. It originally cost £3½ million. I do not know what it costs today. I would have thought that some smaller aircraft like the Islander could be effective. Above all, we want small fast vessels.
I endorse what my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil said. I believe that it was utterly wrong to disband the fishery protection squadron. I protested at the time and said that it was a great mistake. The Government said it did not matter because frigates would be available. I believe the real reason is that they wanted frigates for the ill-fated Beira blockade. The Government have left us with three or four frigates, the Island Class and inshore minesweepers. But we do not have the expertise of the captains of the ships and the senior officers who had been on fishery protection for two or three years and knew the thing backwards and above all knew the trawler skippers and the fishing grounds. I hope that the Minister will consider reintroducing the fishery protection squadron.
I finally turn to what happens on Monday. I endorse what was said by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West about the success of the fisheries demonstration on the Thames. It was an impressive demonstration which showed the strength of feeling in the industry. But what is important is to show the Common Market that rather than being a fishing matter this is a national matter. It was not only the fishing industry that is demonstrating about this; it is a national problem which involves everyone.
As you, Mr. Speaker, know only too well, only about five or six hon. Members represent distant-water ports. But about 300 or 400 Members of Parliament have a personal interest in inshore vessels. It is a national interest. I hope that this can be put over to the EEC. I have done my best to do so because I believe this is the key issue.
Having said that, my heart goes out to those hon. Members who said that we should take unilateral action. But my head advises a certain amount of caution. If we take unilateral action we shall be taken to the International Court. The Irish have been taken there, although their case is entirely different. They may 1830 or may not win, but that is not a precedent for us to follow. Certainly the Minister has our full support in doing everything that he can, but if the Government had more credibility in the EEC there would be much more chance of negotiating a satisfactory solution. Now that even certain members of the Cabinet want to come out of the EEC, along with several Labour Members, the Government's credibility is even less. That makes their negotiating position more difficult.
§ Mr. Wall
I said at the beginning of my speech that in my view there was a big advantage in Britain staying in the EEC. I agree that on fishing alone there are many disadvantages. However, the big picture outweighs the small picture. If we are in this wonderful position of declaring an exclusive 200-mile limit around our coast, how could we protect it without the EEC working with us? We would have all those countries working directly against us. Clearly we shall be much more effective if the EEC works with us.
I therefore personally hope that the Minister will do all that he can—I shall back him—to try to persuade his European colleagues to settle this issue on a reasoned basis between reasonable men. Above all, it must be made clear that this is a national issue in this country and it is, I am sure the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) would agree, an even bigger national issue in Scotland. He made that point clear when we visited the EEC together. This is a matter that concerns everyone in this country, not just the fishing industry but the housewives who buy the fish, as well as many hon. Members in this House.
§ 7.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Mark Hughes (Durham)
It may be of interest to the House to be informed that it happened to be my job in the European Assembly to present the report for the Agricultural Committee on the licensing proposals. I would draw the attention of the House to a number of minor but significant changes that were made to the proposals, at the behest 1831 of myself and others, before they go to the Council of Ministers on Monday.
The first is that the licences should have a fee attached to them. Clearly, whether it is an EEC asset in common or a private British asset it is still an asset and the right to fish that asset, when conservation is at grave risk, is a valuable commercial proposition. Therefore, these licences should not be given away. They should be charged for, and part of the revenue, if not all, should be used for the purposes of improving the lot of fishermen.
Secondly, on a more minor matter, we noticed that in the annex the specification of the vessels included overall length. When we questioned why the Commission proposed overall length as opposed to the normal marine surveyor's concept of waterline length, we were given the splendid answer that most of the surveillance of the licence system will be carried out by aircraft and that photographs will be taken from the air. The reason for overall as opposed to water-line length was based on how a certain amount of surveillance will be carried out.
We then came across an entertaining legal problem. If a British frigate were to arrest, for example, a Russian trawler acting in the British 200-mile zone, and if en route back to the nearest available British port it at any stage entered the 200-mile zone of another member State—that could happen off the Irish Coast, for example—the captain of the fisheries protection vessel could be at risk of prosecution for piracy on the high seas. That is because in international law the Community has no standing on the high seas.
A little earlier in the previous Session we discussed the first agreement entered into between the Community, acting in unison, and a third country, namely, the United States. What emerged was fascinating. The United States clearly laid down the conditions: "Either you fish under our conditions or you do not fish". That is being increasingly used as a precedent by the Community in its negotiations with third countries. The licence proposals are a part of that.
In the midst of the negotiations, which left some of us overwhelmed, reference 1832 was made to prawn fishing off Guyana. That is French Guyana in the southern part of the Caribbean. It suddenly emerged as Community water. For legal purposes Guyana is part of metropolitan France, as are Martinique, Guadaloupe and various other places. We suddenly find that these are so-called Community waters. There is no legal status, but we still talk about them. They are dotted around all parts of the world—for example, St. Pierre and Miquelon in the mouth of the St. Lawrence River. In all sorts of curious place we suddenly find 200-mile Community waters.
§ Mr. Hughes
No, because the islands are not part of the metropolitan United Kingdom.
There are a series of extraordinary positions left by the constitutional state of French colonies or ex-colonies. We suddenly find parts of distant waters from which the fishermen of Britain have been excluded. Let us take the Newfoundland Bank, where there has been historic British fishing and from which the French area has been excluded. No one intended us to get it back in those terms but we did.
I was referring to the Agricultural Committee and those from the Community who received licences from the United States to go and fish. Mr. Gundelach it on record as saying that when we get Community licences in other places the distribution of the licences will be reflected in the internal fishing policy. When pressed, he explained that if Germany, for example, has received a licence to fish for so many thousand tons in United States waters, that will be taken into account mathematically in allocating how many thousand tons Germany will get in the so-called internal Community 200-mile zone.
I raise that issue expressly for the benefit of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hill, West (Mr. Johnson). It is clear that if that statement is honoured—I have no reason to doubt the intention to honour it—Britain's exclusion from Norway will bring compensating advantages in terms of the size of catch allocated to Britain. That is what is being contemplated.
§ Mr. James Johnson
On the other side of the medal, how does it come about that the Germans can negotiate and get a so-called licence in these waters whereas we cannot? We have to get Mr. Gundelach and the EEC to negotiate for us with Norway?
§ Mr. Hughes
No. The Community negotiated licences. America issued licences on the basis of those who had historically fished in its waters over the past 10 years, which happened to be Germany and France. We did not apply for licences. There was no application from Britain for a licence to fish off the United States; therefore, we did not get one. The Germans had historically fished in those waters and the United States granted German fishermen those licences through the Community.
Part of the difficulty when we discuss the common fisheries policy with colleagues and friends from all sorts of political parties in Europe is that they all accept that there is an element of tribal hunting about fishing throughout the Community. Each port in Brittany, for instance, speaks of having its own little tribal hunting area, and behaves along those lines. Without being unkind to our fishermen, regrettably there are vestigial remains of tribal hunting and practices still present.
We have suddenly given a technological capacity to an industry that has had to progress from the skills of the indevidual skipper. Modern radar and other equipment have given the industry enormous skills. It is well known that by means of radar it does not matter where the fishery protection vessel is as the fishing boat can skedaddle out of the restricted zone before the protection vessel can reach it. If the fishing boat has its radar properly tuned it can pick up the protection vessel and move out to where it is supposed to be fishing. As soon as it has seen on the radar screen which course the protection vessel is taking it can return to the more profitable but less desirable waters.
What the fishing industry wants and needs is increasingly becoming incompatible. What the fishing industry individually wants is a free-for-all with everyone else excluded except the individual. 1834 There is a curious paradox. I have listened to the interesting speeches today, and it has been said that when a Scottish, Grimsby or Fleetwood boat ends up off South-West England it is slightly undesirable. If a Grimsby boat goes to a port in the North-East of England it is undesirable. When I was in Northern Norway I happened to speak to a Norwegian skipper and a South Shields skipper. It was clear that the Norwegian skipper looked upon the South Shields skipper as his enemy or rival. The attitude is that the fishermen from one's own port always fish cleanly and with decent methods but that the fishermen from the next port down the coast, particularly if they do not speak the same language, invariably fish wrongly and with indecent methods.
Unfortunately, whatever we may say— some of it has been said today—about our fishermen being better behaved than the French, the French will adduce evidence to the contrary. I do not believe that their evidence is as good as ours—I have a natural chauvinism on the matter—but one gets constant complaints from French members of the European Assembly who have fishing interests. They ask why we cannot keep British fishermen from doing something in their waters. So there are difficulties.
Conservation is and must be the responsibility of the nation State right up to the limit of the 200 miles. It must not stop or have a halfway house at 50 miles. One needs only to look at the maps of the spawning and breeding grounds of certain species like whiting to see that they occur about 60 miles off some parts of the coast. It is more important effectively to conserve a part of the sea which may be more than 50 miles from the coast than to preserve other areas well inside the limit. Therefore, although I agree that "50 miles or bust" is an excellent slogan, conservation may have to be applied throughout the 200-mile limit.
Once that is decided, we must envisage a licensing system for internal fishing, whether it is done unilaterally by the British or by the Community, so that no vessel may fish unless its capacity to fish and its location for fishing are predetermined. Only thus do I envisage the possibility of defending the inshore fisherman against some of the depredations of 1835 middle-water and deep-sea people. Certain areas of waters can then be allocated as the economic preserve of particular endangered groups of people, like the small inshore fishermen and so on. Only when we apply the licensing processes internally as well as externally shall we start to get an effective conservation policy.
§ Mr. Wall
I am following the hon. Gentleman's argument with interest, and I agree with him entirely. Who, does he say, should define the conservation zone, whether it is 50 miles or 200 miles—the coastal State or the EEC? I believe that the law says that it should be the coastal State, in which case it will have to keep out its own vessels as well as those of other nations.
§ Mr. Hughes
As the hon. Gentleman knows, that is the key to the Irish case, that it is, apparently, even-handed, applying to Irish vessels as much as to the vessels of any other country. I have no doubt that the fact that there are relatively few Irish vessels of a size to which it could apply is the purest accident.
The determination of the marine biology for conservation zones is already internationally nearly agreed. The Copenhagen Institute, for example, is of sufficient repute to be acknowledged as impartial between nations on marine biology. It thereafter must and shall remain the duty of the coastal State. The key then comes in what has been debated in the European Parliament and the Socialist Group of that Assembly time and time again. That is, should the States control it as agents of the Community? We say that they should, if the Community produces a fair and viable fishing policy. If the Community fails to do that, they must act in that way in any case. Unless the coastal State supplies and applies the conservation measures, there will be no fish to catch for anyone but if, as we hope, the Community can provide a fair and equitable internal policy, as well as negotiating with third parties, the coastal State, acting on behalf of that agreed collectivity, must do the surveillance, because no one else can do it. We cannot leave conservation to some rather amorphous body. At the moment, only the coastal States have apparently the ability or the will to do it.
1836 In regard to Danish industrial fishing, the House will not be surprised to notice that only two votes were cast in the European Assembly against the proposals on licensing. One was cast by a Dane who objects to all forms of licensing and wants only quotas. The other was cast by the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) who voted against licensing on the grounds that, because she did not know how many were going to be given, she could not support giving any. That was rather curious.
§ Mr. Hughes
Therefore, while one accepts the need for licensing as a conservation tool, a representative from Scotland, who would have the Europeans in the Assembly believe that she is the only true representative of that nation, was one of two who voted against the concept of licences.
§ 8.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith (North Angus and Mearns)
The House will have listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes), whom I am glad to follow, not only for his experience in the European Parliament and for telling us what happened in Friday's debate, but also for his practical and sensible approach to the fishing problems which we face in the Community.
The hon. Gentleman has underlined the fact that talk of specific limits in terms of so many miles, although necessary for international negotiation—the limits have grown from three miles to six to 12, and now there is talk of 50—is totally artificial in biological terms. The fish no more know about limits than any other species. We may, therefore, become obsessed with these artificialities, as though they were ends in themselves.
The hon. Gentleman drew attention rightly to the paradoxical attitude of fishermen. Having spoken to many fishermen I know that they recognise this as well. The significant development of the last six or eight years has been among fishermen themselves, and has taken two forms. The first is a realisation that to maintain their livelihood there must be conservation. Attitudes have changed dramatically, especially in recent years. In Scotland, fishermen have volunteered to have a haddock quota scheme. That kind of co-operation shows how the industry 1837 has advanced. From my experience in the Scottish Office I remember the problems caused in the early 1970s by closing fishing areas. I recall that when I wanted to close one small area for herring in the Firth of Clyde for a limited period of the year the opposition to that proposal was enormous, greater than anything one would see today. The industry has moved forward and it is right that we should move in support of it.
There has been another significant development. As the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) said, we are dealing with an industry that is organised now. It was not organised 15 years ago in the way it is today. It is a sad comment that it is because of threat of international events that the sections of the industry have been brought together. However, the industry is very much more mature, better organised, and has a greater understanding today, than it had a few years ago. In my dealings with fishermen I find that they are not only concerned with the narrow interests of the industry, but with the wider repercussions and implications for affairs in a much wider field.
The timing of this debate is particularly useful because tomorrow Mr. Gundelach is visiting Aberdeen. He will look at the fishing industry, not only in Aberdeen but also in Peterhead and Fraserburgh, and he will have an opportunity to meet fishermen and other members of the industry, who are organising large demonstrations and marches, and to meet representatives of local authorities. The best message that can come from the debate tonight is to let Commissioner Gundelach and others in Europe realise the unity in this House for the case of the fishermen and the general support for the industry by politicians.
In one sense this debate is one of a continuing series that aims to obtain recognition in Europe for the case of the fishing industry. I am the first to understand and appreciate that we do not expect any immediate resolution of our problem in pressing our case. This debate may well have to be repeated in one form or another on many occasions before we can arrive at a conclusion.
In this respect I thank the Minister for the clear way in which he spoke this afternoon. He helped to reassure many of us about his understanding of the 1838 industry and its case. If he sticks to that he will have the support of hon. Members in all parts of the House.
I draw attention to the Minister's dealing with the question of the way in which our membership of the community has brought us problems. It is wrong to think that the road outside the EEC would have been strewn with roses and without any problems at all. Of course it is true that the Community brings us problems, but there would have been problems—perhaps of a different or more limited nature—had we remained outside. To claim that there would have been no problems outside is not a true representation of the likely events had we not joined.
Unfortunately, many of these debates are just a forum where our colleagues on both sides of the House put forward pro or anti-EEC views. I was glad to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) say that he hoped that the arguments today would be put forward on their own merits and not because of an attitude one way or the other about membership of the EEC.
I support my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks), who said that this issue was too important for party politics. We are dealing with a very important industry and an issue that affects men's livelihoods. We want to see the industry supported in the House of Commons on its own merits and not simply as a means of making party capital.
The Minister made it quite clear that our basic objectives in renegotiating the common fisheries policy were to conserve stocks and to maintain the livelihoods of communities and people who are dependent on fishing.
I was involved with my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) in the original negotiations for entry into the EEC. These two points were precisely the two to which we held in 1970–71 in those negotiations. The conservation of stocks and the maintenance of livelihood of people were the two things that were recorded in the minutes of the EEC at the time as being fundamental, in our view, to the review of the common fisheries policy to take place before 1982. It is not true to say that fishing was 1839 pushed to one side in those negotiations. As my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham said there was no single issue of this nature that caused more debate and discussion at the time than the fishing industry.
I remind the right hon. Member for Down, South that fishing was treated differently in those days. Issues like Commonwealth sugar, butter from Australia and New Zealand, and our own problems in relation to agricultural policy were dealt with under the transitional arrangements. Fishing was dealt with in quite a different category. It was not in the agreed transitional arrangements, but we agreed to accepting the CFP with derogrations for 10 years up to 1982, with a provision that, in the period up to that date, the policy should be reviewed with particular reference to the crucial matters that I have mentioned. I think it was right to treat fishing in a different way, and in fairness to the events of 1970–71 I believe that this should be recognised.
I come now to the position at the end of 1982. It is absolutely true that in the purely legalistic sense under the Treaty of Rome, one could return to the situation of fishing up to the beaches, but one must remember that it is not just legalism but the actual practice of the Community that should be judged. I believe that the Minister would support me on this. The practice of the Community does not follow exactly the letter of the Treaty of Rome. If we look at the actual practice of the Common Market—and I refer here to the Luxembourg agreement of January 1966—it is quite plain that the Community should be judged by its spirit and action rather than by legalism.
I remind the House of the speech of the right hon. Member for Huyton (Sir H. Wilson) which he made in the House as Prime Minister on 17th November 1966. He made it quite clear that we should judge the Community by its actions, and I believe that is right. It is worth recalling the agreement arrived at when my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath), as the then Prime Minister, met President Pompidou. As is made clear by the Official Report of 24th May 1971, at col. 32, it was made absolutely clear that, regardless of the legalism of the Treaty of Rome and what might 1840 have been negotiated, where any country which was a member of the Community felt that its vital national interests were affected that view should be taken into account if the Community was to move forward with the unanimous agreement of its members.
I do not want to labour this point, but I wish to stress it very strongly indeed. I believe it demonstrates the way in which the Community works. I have mentioned Labour and Conservative Prime Ministers who have shown their belief in that proposition. That surely is a realistic and practical way to approach that matter.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I shall return to that point before I finish. I believe that is the crux of the matter, and the right hon. Gentleman is right to mention it.
I wish to deal with one other aspect of the policy. I refer to the renegotiations entered into by the Labour Government. It is fruitless to keep on stressing what was right or wrong about the negotiations in 1970–71, or to make similar fruitless exercises about the renegotiation process. It is pointless to say these things about what happened in 1970–71 unless the people concerned are prepared to say on the basis of Government responsibility, not personal responsibility—and I wish to make that clear to the Minister—why they did not raise the problem then. I believe they were right not to raise it. I believe that at that time the political importance of the fishing issue might not have been given the attention it deserved. I believe that on tactical grounds it may have been right not to raise the matter then.
I now come to the point mentioned by the right hon. Member for Down, South. I believe this debate has two main purpose. The first is simply to indicate, through the voice of this House, that the Government, when negotiating, have behind them the strength of this House of Commons, and that we expect them to fight as strongly and as toughly as possible. We hope by that means to obtain a 50-mile exclusive zone in which the British Government have exclusive control over those limits.
The second purpose of the debate is to demonstrate to the EEC the strength of 1841 our case and the feelings of the House. I have not attempted to go into the details of the case because I have done so on previous occasions, and other hon. Members have already dealt with the details. I believe that the issue of fishing and its importance becomes a real test of the integrity of the EEC in its ability to deal with a matter which we believe to be vital to our national interests.
By entering the EEC, I believe that we brought into that organisation a new dimension on fishing. This is demonstrated by the fact that the common fisheries policy evolved at only the eleventh hour before we entered. The EEC should be an organisation that considers the vital interests of its members. If it moves forward in that way, and has the unanimous support of its members in what it does, it will prove to be an international organisation giving greater stability and security to us all. That is the reason I and others supported its entry initially.
This is where I come to the crunch. If the EEC does not take that attitude and shows that it is not sensitive to these issues which are so vital to national interest—and provided that the Government represent them in that way and if the EEC is not prepared to adopt changes to meet the interests of its member countries, the result is that the EEC will have failed. If that happens, the EEC's days are numbered. That is the sanction our Government have, and that must be recognised by any Government when pressing a case that is a good one, as it is here, to a conclusion. That consideration is extremely important for this country and the fishing industry.
§ 8.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I apologise to the House for not having been present throughout the debate. I had the advantage of hearing the Minister's speech, but I had to leave the Chamber to attend to other duties. I intend to be brief because the time of this debate is running out. Furthermore, my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) has deal with a number of the points I wanted to raise.
These debates have been haunted in the past six months or so by several considerations. In these debates held on Supply Days many contributors have fastened on the issue whether we should 1842 be in or outside the EEC. It is understandable that those who personally opposed entry come to the House to say "I told you so. I told you it was a mess and you went in with your eyes open." Those people are entitled to say that.
§ Mr. Clegg
The hon. Gentleman is entitled to argue his point, and he usually does—eiher sitting down or standing up. We have to face realities. I supported our entry into the EEC and the legislation that went with it, and I shall have to take the consequences in my constituency. But I believe that we must try to make the system work. Indeed, I see no practical alternative because, however much howling there may be, we shall not come out of the EEC for some foreseeable time. In the meantime, we have a problem and it must be dealt with. The Minister knows that when he meets his colleagues in Europe on this subject, he will have the full support of the House in however tough a line he decides to take. I know that the case the Minister deploys will be more vigorous than that pursued by Ministers who have conducted these affairs in the past.
There has been a dilatoriness about the way in which the negotiations have been carried out, but I believe that time is of the essence—for two reasons. The first reason is the importance of conservation, which must be stressed. Attacks on stocks have been long and sustained. If there are no fish there, it does not matter whether we are in the EEC or out of it because the fish will not be there to catch.
The second reason that time is so important involves the problem of redeployment of the fleet and the question of the 200-mile limit. But owners cannot build ships until they know in which waters they will be fishing because that will govern the type of ship built and other considerations.
Therefore, time is of the essence. I hope that the Minister will say this to the EEC, and I am sure that he will. Time is not on our side. It may be on theirs, but certainly not ours. I ask the Minister, when he is at the negotiations, to consider the position of Iceland. What 1843 worries me about the negotiating stance that is taken by the EEC in this—and I know that the EEC does not have an easy job but nor do we in dealing with Iceland—is that I should not like to feel that the fact that Germany has already concluded a bilateral agreement with Iceland on taking 50,000 tonnes of fish out would mean that the EEC would take that into account and say that we should go softly in case the Germans lost their fish. If the EEC is to negotiate, it must do so for the Community as a whole.
A further point has been raised in the debate today that affects fishermen in my constituency and it will certainly continue to affect us, whatever the situation may be. That is the matter of protecting the fishing zones that we have left. Practically speaking, there is a pretty impressive system in Scotland, where small aircraft are used in combination with fishery protection vessels. The aircraft can identify the ships at sea, locate them and guide other vessels to them. That gets round the problem that was identified by my hon. Friend, the Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) whereby a ship with radar can escape while the fishery protection vessel is approaching.
The loss of the fishery protection squadron was a great loss and mistake. We said so at the time because the expertise that the squadron had built up over the years in detection, and its knowledge of fishing, cannot be matched by detaching a frigate or other vessels from time to time. That is not good enough. That is where I shall part company with the Government tonight, if we do not receive a definite assurance from the Minister that something will be done to improve protection. With a licensing system particularly, protection will be vital, much more so than with a quota system, because there will then be a situation in which ships must be seen while fishing and identified, to make the system work. If we have only the air ability, it will be easy for ships to slip in and out. The Icelanders work that system successfully from the shores around Iceland. I feel strongly about this aspect.
I promised to be brief, but I must say again that time is of the essence for my port. Every stratagem that the owners can use—using a bit of a quota here and 1844 there, sending ships to Greenland and experimental voyages—is coming to an end and unless something is evolved by the EEC soon we shall be in grave difficulties. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns that this is a test for the EEC to show that we can take the fishing industry into the EEC. It is an act of good faith and I hope for everybody's sake that the EEC will use its powers in good faith.
§ 8.34 p.m.
§ Mr. John Lee (Birmingham, Handsworth)
The last two speakers from the Government side have at least had the grace to contemplate the possibility that all may not be well and that the problem may not be satisfactorily resolved. I intervene as a representative of a landlocked urban constituency—without even a river with enough fish for freshwater purposes—purely eschewing all technicalities, to raise one matter with the Minister. The matter was mentioned by the hon. Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), when he said correctly that this is a national problem and not just a fisheries one.
The fact remains that every time we discuss anything upon which the EEC impinges—whether it is the manufacture of isoglucose, the pig subsidy, the localities for refining North Sea oil, patent law, comparatively humdrum matters such as poultry slaughter, or vital matters such as cheap food imports—we watch the steady erosion of our interests because they conflict with EEC interests.
The fisheries problem illustrates perhaps more starkly than most the fact that our kind of economy is different from that of our partners. The fact that we hold 65 per cent. of the fish stocks means that invariably we find ourselves in a measure of confict with those with whom we are in this incongruous alliance.
My purpose is to ask the Minister, with the utmost good will, to face up to what will happen if he does not get the answers that he wants. It is not good enough for him to say, as he did in reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Henderson), that he was an optimist and would work strenuously in the interests of this country. We know that he will do that. He is the first Minister of Agriculture for donkeys' years who has done so, and all honour to him. It is strange 1845 that the Opposition should support him by putting on a three-line Whip on a Supply Day which implicitly censors him —though they do not have the guts or political guile to do so specifically. My right hon. Friend goes about his duties with the good will of many hon. Members, and that will be shown by the size of the majority at the end of this debate.
However, my right hon. Friend cannot escape a measure of criticism if he or the Minister who winds up the debate does not say what will happen if we do not get the answers that we want. My right hon. Friend is already in conflict with the Community in its court and has, for the moment, backed down over pig subsidies. I understand why he has done this although I wish that he had not.
Because conflict with the other members is likely, if we are to end the uncertainty that has plagued this industry, and so many others, since we joined the Community, we must know the Government's contingency plans in case we do not get our way.
I am not optimistic that we shall get our way. It is clear that some of our partners, including, as ever, the French, will try to do us down. Are we going to find ourselves pleading a suit at the court of the Community? If that suit goes against us, what will happen then?
I suspect that, on a strict interpretation of Community law, the Bill introduced by the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) to establish a 50-mile limit, which I wholeheartedly support, would be ultra vires Community law. It will be fascinating to see what happens.
Some hon. Members would not be content with a 50-mile limit and would prefer us to follow the admirable example of the Norwegians and Icelanders and introduce, wherever possible, a 200-mile limit.
At present there is no chance of that, but if we left it, it would become a live issue again.
May we have from the Government a clear indication of their policy in the event of the Minister's proposals being rejected by the Community? Are we prepared to defy the EEC and to act unilaterally? If so, are we prepared to take the consequences that might follow by way of retaliatory action? I hope that we are. We have all the bargaining power because we have all the stocks. 1846 The same is true when we talk of action on manufactured imports. There has been a consistent adverse trade balance and it has got worse since we joined the Community. In this area, as in fishing, the Common Market is not in a position to take painful retaliatory action against us.
At all events, the present uncertainty must be ended. Some time this year the court of the Community is going to adjudicate substantively upon the pig subsidies dispute, so sooner or later the Government have to face the situation of being declared illegal by the Community. I know the kind of answer I would give to them. I want to know what my right hon. Friend's answer will be, and I should like to know tonight.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
During these debates on the fishing industry we very often of necessity have to hear the same facts and figures and the same arguments deployed in successive debates and, as my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) said, it may well be that we shall have more fishery debates, when the same arguments will have to be repeated yet again. But I hope that one theme which has come to be only too well known in these debates will not have to be repeated yet again, as it has been this afternoon, and that is this rather futile question of who was to blame for the EEC negotiations.
The fact of the matter is that the Conservative Party in 1970–71, when it was negotiating, considered that it was more important to get into the Common Market when we wanted to get in than to negotiate on fisheries. That may have been wrong, but it was what we believed at the time and that is why I voted for it although I knew that many people in Aberdeen and the North-East did not like it. It is also true that when the Labour Party was renegotiating it may have had the same sort of argument. Many of us on both sides of the House urged the Labour Party to renegotiate fisheries also, but—by our votes in the referendum, in so far as we are willing to talk about which way we voted— those who like myself voted "yes" in the referendum were saying that we considered it more important to get info the Community than to protect and to get 1847 the best for our fishing industry. I hope it is not necessary to put up any smokescreens about this; it was an honourable attempt to do what was best, whether or not it was mistaken.
I shall be brief, since I imagine that the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) will want to make a short contribution. I certainly welcome this opportunity to reinforce the argument which the Secretary of State will take with him in an attempt to achieve, or to take the first step towards achieving, a fairer deal for the British fishing industry. Of course, the most important thing that he will have to try to do is to make the EEC realise that the United Kingdom has a special interest and therefore deserves special treatment.
There are those who say that the EEC does not understand what is Britain's special interest. This was the sort of argument we had from some of the more fanatical of the pro-Europeans. It is not a question of not understanding what the British interest is. It is, on the part of the French for example, a refusal to understand or to admit that Britain has a special interest, and we do not have to look very far to see why the French, for example, refuse to admit that we have a special interest in a 50-mile exclusive limit. I think I am right in saying that some 80 per cent. of the fish the French industry catches is caught within a couple of dozen miles of the British coast, so of course they will resist as long and as strongly as they can what we regard as our just claims.
Let me enumerate some of the reasons why Britain has a special interest and therefore deserves special treatment. First, the United Kingdom provides 60 per cet. of the fish in the whole EEC fishing pond. Secondly, the United Kingdom has the largest number of fishing vessels in the EEC. Thirdly, the United Kingdom fishing industry catches the greatest number of fish for human consumption within the EEC.
Fourthly, in recent months we have lost out in three of our traditional major fishing areas—Norway, the Faroes and off Iceland.
Fifthly, fishermen in this country naturally distrust the apparent faith that the EEC continues to have in the quota 1848 system. Our fishermen do not believe that anyone else apart from us abides by the system very much. The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes), in a very interesting speech, pointed out that, wherever he went in the Common Market, he found that the fishermen of one country always thought that the fishermen of another country behaved worse than they did. There is probably a certain amount of truth in that, but there are some facts that cannot be gainsaid.
It is no use the French saying that they do not catch 80 per cent. of their fish within a couple of dozen miles of the British coast. That is a fact. That is why they behave in a way that we regard as worse. It is not just a question of unfounded smears being thrown about.
Another fact is that a delegation has come from the North-East of Scotland hoping to see the Secretary of State for Scotland to point out that in the last three weeks, while there has been a ban on herring fishing in the North Sea, the Danes have fished 2,000 stones of herring. That is not a vague smear. This is the sort of thing that naturally causes our fishermen to distrust fellow members of the EEC with regard to quotas.
The sixth point, which has not been made as explicitly this afternoon as it usually it, but which bears repeating, is that certain communities in this country are heavily dependent on the fishing industry. One is my own constituency of Aberdeen, and there are others all down the North-East Coast of Scotland and England. I remind hon. Members that, although oil has been found off the coast of Aberdeen, and Aberdeen is now known as an oil city, 25 per cent. of the workforce is almost wholly dependent on the fishing industry. If we are not successful in our renegotiations, those jobs and the livelihoods of those people will be put at risk.
My seventh point is that it is a curious fact that, although oil in the middle of the North Sea is regarded as a national asset and is accepted as such by other members of the Common Market, the fish that swim in the same location are not regarded as a national asset. That is illogical. This is brought home to me all the more forcibly when, as one of the Members for Aberdeen, I may speak with two sets of business people within a hundred yards of each other and realise 1849 that the resources of one group do not belong to this country while the resources of the other group do belong to this country. This is an illogicality which the EEC has not yet taken into account in formulating the common fisheries policy.
§ Mr. Heffer
Precisely because it is an illogicality, is not the logic that the Commission and our friends in the Common Market will eventually argue that all the oil resources found in the Common Market pool should belong to the Common Market and not necessarily to the individual country concerned? Is not that the logic of the next step in the argument.
§ Mr. Sproat
That would be a logical step. It is not a logical step that I would follow, for two reasons. First, as the hon. Member knows, oil is of importance to this country. Any Government would have to admit the logic of that. But that is what one might perhaps call the force majeure answer.
I would give a logical answer to anybody who put forward that argument by saying that I do not believe that the fish should be within a common EEC pool any more than is the oil. Britain is being asked to make a totally unfair bargain under the common fisheries policy. We are being asked to swap 60 per cent. of the fish within the EEC pond, fish which in a sense are in British waters—I say "in a sense" because it has been a unilateral declaration by the EEC—for the 1 per cent. of fish which we take out of the fish in EEC waters which belong to the other members of the EEC. Sixty per cent. for 1 per cent. is a totally unfair bargain.
Hon. Members might ask "What would you do?" I would say that if the EEC refuses to have regard to the natural justice of this argument this country would be justified in making a unilateral decision, a unilateral extension of the 50-mile limit. I see my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow, Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) on the Opposition Front Bench.
§ Mr. Sproat
The fisherman's friend, as my hon. Friend rightly says. Why is my hon. Friend able to say, without immodesty and with truth, that he is the fisherman's friend? The answer is that, some months ago, it was he who came 1850 to Fraserburgh and made what has become known as the Declaration of Fraserburgh, where he pledged the Conservative Party officially to a 50-mile exclusive limit.
I hope that my hon. Friend, having taken that bold and original step then, will say, when he winds up the debate, that if the EEC continues to deny this country what it should have in natural justice, a 50-mile exclusive limit, he will pledge the Conservative Party to take unilateral action in extending the 50-mile limit.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Myer Galpern)
Is the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) giving way?
§ 8.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Hamish Watt (Banff)
Speaker after speaker this evening has talked of what must be done to save the fishing industry, but no one has talked of why we must take this action to save the industry. I sometimes despair at this country's ability ever to get its balance of payments right. If we were talking this evening of the problems facing the motor vehicle industry, heavy industry or the electrical industry, there would be solid ranks of Members on both sides of the House, but because it happens to be the fishing industry, an industry which has about 140,000 work-people in small pockets all around the coast, very few hon. Members take the trouble to come to listen.
We face a great deal of out-of-date Treasury thinking in this matter. It is high time the Treasury started to take a look at the import content of some of the exports that this nation makes. We must remember that in order to export a car we have to import a great deal of raw materials and many parts, whereas if we export fish all of the fish, all of the content of that export, is real money coming to the nation. If we examine the export of heavy goods we find that half the time it is subsidised by the Export Credits Guarantee Department, whereas with the export of fish it is a case of money on the nail. The cash is paid straight over and there is no liability on the Exchequer.
1851 I am delighted to see the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) taking a great interest in the fishing industry, and so he should because it was the fishing vote that put him into the House. I was pleased to hear him call for the setting up of a little NEDC to look after the fishing industry. Unless the nation realises this industry's potential the industry will continue to be the Cinderella in the House. It is obvious that the industry was the Cinderella when the Administration of the right hon. Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) took us blindly into the Common Market and paid no attention to the industry's needs but accepted the common fisheries policy, which, it has now been generally accepted, was rapidly cobbled up just before our entry.
The dreadful legacy that the present Minister inherited gives him no excuse for his continued lack of meaningful action to protect the interests of the British fishing fleet. Will the Secretary of State for Scotland tell us, for example, why the Government agreed to an extension of the pout boxes only to 60 degrees North? Why was it not 62 degrees? Did the Government not know that in those extra two degrees there are valuable fishing grounds? Those grounds are now available to the Danish industrial fishermen to come in with their small-mesh nets and take away some first-class haddock, hake, and many other varieties of fish that should be going for human consumption, instead of down the holds of those Danish vessels, which take it straight to the fishmeal factory. It is vital that we try to get our EEC partners, the Danes, to stop industrial fishing. If FEOGA or regional aid funds from the EEC are needed to do that, by all means let the Danes have them all. We would much rather have a viable fishing industry than all the subsidies from the EEC.
There was a so-called total ban on the fishing of herring in the North Sea, but there was just a little chink left, which said that the Dutch might have 1,500 tonnes so that they could celebrate some special festival. It is well known in the fishing industry that they promptly took four times the quota that was allowed. They landed about 6,000 tonnes within one week, and I have it on good authority that those herrings were making 50p each on the pierhead in Holland.
1852 That is surely a clear indication that imposed quotas do not work. Whenever the fishing industry has the opportunity, it grossly exceeds the quotas. Let us examine the position where there is a voluntary quota, one imposed by the fishermen themselves. I wish to give the example of the haddock quota that the Scottish inshore fishermen imposed on their own members, a quota of 40 boxes per man per week landed. It is an awful pity that the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) knows so little about his fishing job that he cannot see that a voluntary quota of 40 boxes, whether gutted or ungutted, is much better than an imposed quota of gutted haddock. In fine weather such as we are enjoying now it is no hardship to a fisherman to gut up to 80 boxes in a week. It will take him a long time, but he can do it. It is too bad if he is to be made to stay on deck in the teeth of a winter gale and go on gutting haddock that should be coming into our factories and providing jobs for the women in the fishing communities around our coasts. I ask the Minister to re-examine this matter closely. Here we have the fishermen prepared to impose a tight quota on themselves, and yet they are forced to accept a quota that will not be so useful.
I am watching the time. I am sure that the Front Bench speakers from both sides of the House will be prepared to give up a few minutes in order to allow me to finish my speech.
I turn now to the wider context. It is obvious that only limited fishing will be available in Icelandic, Faroese and Norwegian waters. We hope that the Minister will impress upon the EEC how hopeless it has been in looking after Britain's interests. Mr. Gundelach has negotiated with Iceland and the Faroes and he is supposed to be negotiating with Norway. He has done a bad job on each occasion.
I was sad to learn tonight that Regulation S779/77 was not extended for a further three months. That means that boats from third countries will be allowed to come into our waters and take away our fish for a further three months. There should be a reduction in the number of EEC boats allowed within our limits. There should be a reduction in the allowances we give to third countries. Allowances should be made only when there are reciprocal arrangements and facilities 1853 are offered to our fishermen such as are offered by Russia and Norway.
When is the EEC going to face its responsibility to save fish stocks? It is a pity that the House gave away our jurisdiction over two-thirds of the EEC waters. I have never had faith in the EEC and its ability to look after widely divergent interests, such as those of Scotland and Italy. I am now totally convinced that the EEC has neither the skill nor the will to look after our fishing interests or administer the CFP.
As a member of the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee of this House I recently visited Humberside. I was saddened to see the number of trawlers that were tied up. They had many years of fishing life left to them, but I saw fishing gear being taken from their decks. I was saddened to sec young, able fishermen taking nets from the boats because the boats had nowhere to go to fish. I urge the Government to take a fresh look at the problem of the boats that are tied up on Humberside and to try to find a way to get them back to sea.
Although there is a shortage of areas in which to fish in the North Atlantic, there are fishing stocks in the South Atlantic. Why do we not make a deal with the Falkland Islands and set up a viable fisheries industry there? We asked the trawler owners and skippers if they could prepare ships to catch these fish. They said that they could and would be delighted to do so, rather than allow their men to remain on the dole.
Fishermen who are on the dole are doing nothing to help our balance of payments. It is unfortunate that the Minister who is responsible for fisheries is also responsible for agriculture and food, but he must get down to this problem of getting these boats back to sea.
I realise that the Treasury will become complacent because of the vast sums of money that will now be flowing into the Exchequer from the products of Scotland's oilfields. I urge the Government to use the money wisely. Oil supplies will not last for ever, but fish stocks will, if they are used wisely. If the Government would use some of the oil money to send boats from Humberside down into the South Atlantic, I for one would be absolutely delighted.
1854 Some hon. Members may have noticed that tonight I have not spoken particularly about the Scottish fishing industry, but I assure them that never for a moment have my thoughts left it. I particularly want the Humberside boats to be sent down into the South Atlantic so that we shall get them out of the waters around Scotland and have them away doing a job for which they are better suited. Many of these English boats are too big for inshore work. It is important that we put them to a task for which they were built.
The fishermen of Scotland know perfectly well that the Scottish National Party will fight for their interests first, last and all the time, and that it is totally behind them in their struggle for a 50-mile zone. I am not very sure that Mr. Gundelach, the EEC Commissioner, knows that yet, but by this time tomorrow he will know perfectly well because in Aberdeen tomorrow he will be told in no uncertain terms and left in no doubt whatsoever of the absolute determination of the Scottish fishing industry to have a 50-mile zone.
I return to the problem of the order on haddock that we debated in Committee yesterday. There are two hon. Members who will be left in no doubt about the feelings that the Scottish fishing industry has about them. I refer to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), who yesterday voted for that order.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
Far be it from me to defend the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) or the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Younger), but the fact is that they did not vote, and that was despicable, because they were not prepared to face their responsibilities.
§ Mr. Watt
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. Of course those two hon. Members did not vote. Come January and February, in the teeth of a gale, their names will be taken through hand by fishermen many times, and they will not at that time be called "honourable Members".
I intend to conclude my speech very shortly, but I make no apologies for saying that we in the SNP believe that Scotland has a wonderful future ahead of it, 1855 especially if we build up our fishing industry. If we look after our oil interests and our fishing industry we shall be able to snap our fingers at this House.
I conclude, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by giving you one idea. Nothing is permanent——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I hope that the hon. Member is not about to make any gifts of ideas to me.
§ Mr. Watt
Nothing is permanent, and perhaps the most urgent task that faces the Government now is to protect stocks of fish within 50 miles. I suggest to the Minister that he does a temporary deal with the EEC, asking the EEC to keep its boats out of our waters for a period of five years. It will take about that time for fish stocks to recover. I believe that under the control of our fishermen, who will fish sensibly, the stocks will recover. If at the end of that time there are extra fish in the areas under our jurisdiction there may be a case then for letting some EEC boats, under strict licences, back into these waters. I put that to the Minister because I know very well that the EEC often works to a time clock. It may well be that it would accept just such a deal. The alternative is that there will be no fish left, either for their fishermen or for ours.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor (Glasgow, Cathcart)
The one advantage of hearing a speech by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) is that one realises that on a subject such as this, as on all subjects, to him it seems that all problems have very simple solutions. However, the experience that I have had in listening to the debate and talking to my hon. Friends who have knowledge and experience of the fishing industry, so many of whom have spoken in the debate, is that this problem, like to many others, is very complex and that there are certainly no easy answers.
I say this only because I thought that the hon. Gentleman's summary of what happened yesterday on the haddock order was one of the most unfair and distorted attacks that could be made on my hon. Friend the Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith) and my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr 1856 (Mr. Younger). If we were to approach this problem with the blind simplicity of the hon. Gentleman, we should certainly have even less success than we are haying at the present time. However, there is one matter on which I would certainly agree with the hon. Gentleman, and that is the importance of the fishing industry to Scotland.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) and other hon. Members emphasised how vital this industry is to Scotland. Scotland has only 9 per cent. of the population of the United Kingdom, but it accounts for about half the fish landed in the United Kingdom. In 1976 916,000 tons of fish were landed in the United Kingdom, of which Scotland accounted for 442,000 tons—in other words, 48 per cent. by volume. In value the percentage landed by Scotland was 42 per cent.; that is to say, £85.5 million out of a figure of £200 million.
Apart from that, there are other indications of the importance of the industry to Scotland. In the annual report today of the White Fish Authority the employment figures were given—7,500 in Scotland as against 9,000 in England and Wales.
Apart from that, as I am sure the hon. Member for Moray and Nairn (Mrs. Ewing) would agree, with her knowledge of fishing, the Scottish inshore fishing fleet is more modern than that of the United Kingdom as a whole. We can see from the figures published in the report this morning that 23 per cent. of the Scottish inshore fleet was five years and under in age, and 20 per cent. from six to 10 years old. In England the figure is 8 per cent. for both categories. We therefore have an industry which is important, modern, and vital to a number of communities.
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that it is very strange that he should be reciting our speeches in this House to us, telling us what we know already, and wasting the time of the House in doing so, when his Government took us into the Common Market, without—as his right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) admitted on Friday in Strasbourg—a safeguard for this vitally important industry?
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
Order. I strongly deprecate hon. Members undertaking or usurping the duties of the Chair. The question of wasting time is entirely for the Chair and not for any hon. Member to determine.
§ Mr. Taylor
I am sorry that after only a few sentences the hon. Lady thinks I am wasting time. She has asked me a serious question. She referred to a debate last week in the European Parliament. As it happens, I have with me the full text of what was said by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon). He referred to what had happened and made quite clear what the position was and what steps were taken by the Conservative Government at the time to safeguard the position in regard to fishing.
In the reports of proceedings of the European Parliament, unlike our Hansard, sometimes at the end of a speech, as in this case, the word "Applause" appears. What astonishes me, particularly in view of what the hon. Lady said, is what she said on that occasion. I have a copy of her speech, which followed immediately after that of my right hon. and learned Friend, and I see that the hon. Lady said: "May I echo"—[Interruption.] The hon. Member for Fife, Central (Mr. Hamilton) was also there. The hon. Lady said:May I echo my support for the sentiments expressed by Mr. Rippon?This is rather typical of the hypocrisy of the hon. Lady, that——
§ Mrs. Winifred Ewing
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. If quotations are to be made, they must be made accurately. I was applauding the apology of the right hon. and learned Member for Hexham——
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker
I have not a copy of the report and it is not up to me to determine whether it is accurate or not. Hon. Members can make up their own minds.
§ Mr. Taylor
I have the full text here, and any hon. Member may see it and judge whether my interpretation is correct or wheher the hon. Lady's interpretation is correct. On this issue, as on so many others, the Scottish National Party speaks with different voices in different places, depending on the audience. The 1858 hon. Lady is a great European over in Brussels but takes a different view when she comes to Scotland. [Interruption.] In Scotland the fishing industry is absolutely vital.
It has been generally accepted by all those who have taken part in the debate that, apart from the importance of the fishing industry to Scotland in general, there is the question of its vital importance in particular communities. Only a few weeks ago I was in Shetland, where 30 per cent. of all those in employment are engaged in fishing, fish processing or the ancillary industries. The right hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) made clear that a great number of villages and towns in Scotland are largely dependent on fishing.
In addition, another thing which has been generally agreed is the situation of crisis which exists in the industry at present. The report of the White Fish Authority refers to the excellent results of the last 12 months but also to the serious crisis which is building up. The report this morning indicates that British trawlers are being driven out of the traditional fishing grounds of places such as Newfoundland, Greenland, Norway, Russia and Iceland. It also points out that two-fifths of the distant-water fleet has gone out of business since our entry into the Common Market and that the whole of the North Sea is subject to a degree of depredation which can only arouse the most serious concern. This problem was outlined in the Herring Industry Board's report published recently, where the chairman pointed out that the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission has nearly exterminated all fishing round our shores.
The one thing that has united all hon. Members who have taken part in the debate is the importance of securing an exclusive 50-mile management zone around our shores. I would make it absolutely clear that the Conservative Opposition wholly support the claim of the industry for this exclusive management zone. The case is overwhelming. As the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) have pointed out, the United Kingdom contributes 60 per cent. of all the fish going into the EEC pond. In addition, there is the special factor of Britain 1859 having lost one-third of her traditional fishing areas in Iceland, the Faroes and Norway.
One further point which ought to be borne in mind, and the EEC certainly must bear it in mind, is that Britain has hardly anything to gain from common access. As shown from figures published in the White Fish Authority's report, the 200-mile limit was imposed by the EEC. However, Britain catches less than 1 per cent. of all her fish in waters of other member States. While the other member States have a great deal to gain from common access, Britain has virtually nothing to gain. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Moray and Nairn, who is grunting away as usual, should appreciate that when the debate on the Common Market took place I, along with a number of other people, campaigned against it. During the referendum I also campaigned against it.
We are now facing a real problem, and what we need to do is not to allocate blame and responsibility to individuals or parties but to try to find a solution to a real problem which affects lives and jobs in all our communities.
We should also remember that many communities in Britain are wholly reliant on fishing. The United Kingdom has the largest tonnage of vessels, and catches the greatest amount of fish for home consumption. Another very important reason for an exclusive management zone is that Britain has probably the best conservation record of all the countries of the EEC. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South, was absolutely right when he said that other nations have not been successful in keeping the rules or in policing.
I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will make some reference to the serious issue which has arisen with regard to Area 4 of the North Sea. This was drawn to the attention of the people of Scotland by the chairman of the Conservative Fisheries Advisory Committee in Scotland and has since been commented on by others.
So far as we are aware, Area 4 is an area which the EEC closed in 1975 under an agreement for international co-operation on exploitation of the sea. The object was to conserve fish stocks. The area is beside two other areas which are closed 1860 to the United Kingdom but not to foreign vessels. There have been a number of reports, which have been confirmed by two skippers, that Danish and Faroese vessels have slipped into this closed area simply because no one has been stopping them. The Danes are fishing for herring and have been landing them as part of the by-catch allowed under the arrangement for catching fish. Policing is not effective.
I understand that Mr. Gilbert Buchan, the vice-president of the Scottish Fisheries Board, called to see the Secretary of State yesterday. We are entitled to an indication from the Minister of what action he will take in respect of the very serious complaints. There is little point in having the best agreements and the best conservation arrangements in consultation with other members of the EEC if they are being ignored or if there is no question of effective policing. What is important is the policing not merely of our own waters but of all the waters around EEC shores as long as we have the present arrangement.
My hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall) was right in what he said about the habits of the French and the dangers posed by the Danes in carrying out industrial fishing. There is no doubt that a long-term solution will depend a great deal on the elimination of industrial fishing techniques and on ensuring that everyone obeys all the rules.
Another vital reason for ensuring that we get a 50-mile management zone is that that would give Britain the freedom to negotiate adequate reciprocal deals. It is a fact that almost all the fish caught by the Faroese and Norwegian fishermen were from British waters before the changeover, as has been pointed out by the British Fishing Federation of Aberdeen. That makes it clear that we would be in an adequate and sensible position to make reciprocal deals with both the Faroese and the Norwegians.
The situation in the Faroes is serious. The negotiations between the EEC and the Faroese seem to be getting nowhere fast. The Commission cannot effectively talk about the quantity of EEC fish available to outsiders until the internal régime has been resolved.
Probably some hon. Members will have seen the telex sent by the British Shipping 1861 Federation Scottish office to the Secretary of State. I believe it was sent on 17th June. It states:The United Kingdom trawling industry is totally frustrated and dissatisfied with the latest negotiations with the Faroese which took place earlier this week. It was obvious to everyone involved in the negotiations including the Faroese that the restricted grounds presently open to licensed United Kingdom vessels do not afford sufficient flexibility to enable viable fishing to take place at Faroe and do not enable us to catch even the very reduced quota of cod and haddock currently being offered, and the figures for April, May and June so far demonstrate this very clearly.The frustration on our vessels is heightened because the activities of the fishing fleets of other Common Market members have been hardly affected in Faroese waters and have undergone virtually no reduction. That is an extremely unsatisfactory state of affairs. I am sure that the Minister will agree.
The negotiations are not getting anywhere. If we had an exclusive zone, we would be in a good position to make a sound agreement, bearing in mind the amount of fish caught by the Faroese in British waters. The same applies to Norway. Norway's fishing grounds are probably more important to British trawlers than any other grounds. The Norwegians have made it clear that they are fed up to the teeth with the delays in getting satisfactory arrangements. They have also made it clear that they do not entirely trust other countries to keep the rules. It is important that we should be able to make a deal with Norway. That would be quite possible if we had an exclusive zone.
There is also the important consideration that a 50-mile zone is in some ways rather easier to police than a 12-mile zone. That was made clear in the evidence given to the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee by British United Trawlers, which said:In our opinion it is possible to police effectively a wide exclusive fishery zone, given a reasonable number of patrol aircraft and fast protection vessels, at least as fast and seaworthy as the Icelandic vessels 'Aegir'. A narrow belt, however, would in our view be almost impossible to police without a greatly increased fishery protection service. This is simply because offending vessels can enter and leave a narrow belt so quickly—in the case of a 12-mile zone within an hour or so—making necessary surveillance virtually continuous. A wider zone is much easier to protect, as was shown at Iceland in the recent dispute.1862 That is also an important argument for the 50-mile limit.
We should aim for strong policing in a 50-mile limit and proper penalties for the evasion of the rules. When we consider some of the penalties that are imposed in Britain and other countries it is clear that there is scope for penalties to be increased for those who fish illegally. The BUT thought that for the first offence the catch should be confiscated, and that for the second the boats should be confiscated and one fewer licence be given to the country which had been given the right to fish in our waters. That would be a major step forward.
The overwhelming case for a change and for a 50-mile limit is that the CFP has been totally overtaken by events, as was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) in an excellent speech. First, Britain and Ireland joined the Common Market, which resulted in a big increase in available stocks of fish. Second, the EEC introduced the 200-mile limit. The third event was our exclusion from certain deep fishing waters. It is vital for all these reasons that we have a 50-mile exclusive limit, and time is not on our side.
Much of the argument today has been concentrated not on how we can get the best arrangement but on who is to blame for our present situation.
§ Mr. Heffer
Will the hon. Gentleman now answer the question of his hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and say whether the Conservative Party is saying clearly that, if it was elected, which God forbid, it would make a clear declaration that it would unilaterally impose a 50-mile limit? Is that correct or not? The logic is that we would then be expelled from the EEC. That would not upset me, but I should like to know whether that is the official position of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Taylor
No, what we have made clear is that the Conservative Party stands firmly behind the industry in its claim for a 50-mile limit. We have made that clear previously and will do so again.
§ Mr. Powell
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will explain why, if that is so important and so clearly the policy of the Conservative Party, the Conservatives did not move a motion to that effect.
§ Mr. Taylor
The right hon. Gentleman will remember that the hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) introduced a Private Member's Bill, which received a Second Reading on Friday, confirming a 50-mile limit and that no hon. Member objected to that. It would be sterile to have the same debate twice in a very short time. By having the debate in this form, we have made it possible to debate much wider issues than one on which the House is unanimously agreed.
It is only fair to point out to Labour Members who have protested strongly about our joining the Common Market that when we did so—I was very much engaged in those debates—a 50-mile limit was not talked about all the time. The interest then was a 12-mile limit. As for making our position clear, on 15th December 1971 my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham, talking about the CFP, said:if, contrary to all practice and precedent, the members of the enlarged Community failed … to reach agreement on the arrangements which could follow the present derogation … there would clearly be a major crisis involving the coherence of the Community itself."— [Official Report, 15th December 1971; Vol. 828, c. 735.]So there is no question of this matter being left to go by default. My right hon. and learned Friend made it clear that we believed this to be the one issue which was absolutely vital, the one national interest which would, and should, not be neglected.
§ Mr. James Johnson
What was the time scale? Was the right hon. and learned Gentleman talking in terms of 1982, 11 years ahead then?
§ Mr. Taylor
My right hon. and learned Friend was making it clear that at the time he hoped and expected that arrangements would be made long before 1982. They certainly would have been if he had continued with the good work which he was doing. The hon. Gentleman will remember that at that time I was on the other side in that important debate.
We have here a very serious situation and one that will demand tough negotiation and the Government using all their diplomatic skills. It will also involve maximising the good will in the EEC. To that extent I hope that the Secretary 1864 of State will accept—and this is not a rebuke—that it is not simply a question of using tough words. If tough words would get our fishermen the guarantees they are seeking, we would get plenty of guarantees tonight. We have had plenty of tough talking in the House of Commons. But tough talking will not necessarily guarantee the industry the kind of deal and arrangements that we all want to see. We shall, in fact, have to use all possible diplomatic skills and get a maximum of good will.
One question on which I hope the House will reflect is whether the diplomatic skills, the negotiation pattern, and the techniques used up to now by the Government are those likely to get the kind of agreement that we are seeking.
My right hon. Friend has made it clear why we are dividing the House tonight, but I am concerned as well about the question of the fishing protection flotilla. It is absolutely vital, as a gesture of the Government's steel and commitment to the future of the industry, that there should be adequate protection for the fishing industry. It is only fair to say that if there is any possibility of a meaningful announcement—of the Secretary of State for Scotland making it absolutely clear tonight—that the Government will reverse the earlier decision to abandon the flotilla, we shall review our attitude towards the Government's conduct of affairs.
I do not have a great deal of confidence in the way in which the Government are handling our affairs. I do not feel particularly confident about their negotiation techniques or the individuals they are putting forward to negotiate. We have the hon. Member for Glasgow, Provan (Mr. Brown) as the Scottish fishing Minister. It is accepted by everyone that the House is relatively united on the question of the 50-mile limit. We should make sure that we go ahead with a solid front and a strong negotiating position. Yet, when the hon. Member for Provan met fishermen in Aberdeen, who made it clear that they were not happy, he said that there was not a hope in hell of getting a 50-mile limit. This did not increase the confidence of the fishermen or those concerned with getting the right answer for the fishing industry.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
I notice that in his speech the hon. Member for Glasgow, 1865 Cathcart (Mr. Taylor) has talked about a 50-mile exclusive management zone. Is that, in fact, what the industry is asking for?
§ Mr. Taylor
Yes. The industry does not just want a 50-mile exclusive limit for British fishing vessels. It wants the right to make adequate reciprocal deals with the Faroes and Norway in order to guarantee the future of not only the inshore fleets but the trawlers of Aberdeen and Hull, which are laid up at present because they have been squeezed out. No one is suggesting that we want a 50-mile zone for British vessels only. We want to guarantee for ourselves the right to use these waters and the possibility of providing for reciprocal deals with Norway. There is no point in guaranteeing the position of the Scottish inshore fleets if there are no guarantees for the trawlers as well.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
The Scottish fishermen are asking for an exclusive zone for fishing and certainly they are encouraged by the Scottish National Party. Is that the hon. Member's position, or not?
§ Mr. Taylor
Our position—and this has been accepted by the industry—is that we want the right to decide on the use of vessels that come within the 50-mile limit; we want the right to make bargains and other reciprocal deals; and we want to fish in Norwegian waters. Since the hon. Gentleman who intervened in my speech represents Aberdeen, I would be surprised if he did not agree with that point of view. He knows that Aberdeen trawlers are as important as any other vessels in the Scottish fleet. We must safeguard them, and they can best be safeguarded in a 50-mile management zone.
§ Mr. Neil Marten (Banbury)
What my hon. Friend is saying is that we want sovereignty over the 50-mile limit, which we can trade away if we so wish.
§ Mr. Taylor
I have already made my position quite clear. We want a right of a 50-mile management zone. That is our position, and that is where we stand. We have made that clear.
We are far from happy with what has been achieved so far. We do not have confidence in the negotiating skills or attitudes of the present Government. Labour Ministers sometimes apear to go 1866 into Europe with the attitude of a businessman going to see his bank for a loan and telling the manager that first he wants to overthrow the banking and capitalist system. We hope that there will be success, but we are far from confident that the tactics and attitude of the Government will find the answers. Certainly so far as industry is concerned, we cannot afford for the negotiations to fail.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Bruce Millan)
I welcome this debate from the point of view of its timing, because on Monday there is to be a special Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg, to which my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I shall be going.
This is, nevertheless, a peculiar debate. Presumably, the choice of debate and the way in which it was chosen by the Opposition was to allow them to have a vote at the end of proceedings. But there has been nothing in the course of the debate to justify the Opposition or anybody else voting against the Government. On the main lines of policy, I think that the House as a whole has been in favour of the attitudes and points of view put by the Government in recent months. I see nothing at all in anything said today by the Opposition to justify a vote at the end of the debate.
It is a considerable mistake from a national point of view that a day or two before this important fisheries meeting we should have a vote in this House. I regret that very much, apart from the considerable degree of hypocrisy which is involved in the Opposition choosing to vote on this matter.
I want to deal with a number of the major issues which have been raised tonight, and I wish to instance the question of enforcement. I do not accept the various criticisms which have been levelled at our enforcement effort. I accept absolutely, as do the Government, that if we are to have effective arrangements with third countries in our waters, and if we are to have effective implementation of conservation measures affecting Community countries, it is essential that there should be adequate provision for enforcement. But the present enforcement provision, which includes the 1867 fishery protection squadron, was planned specifically on the basis that we would be extending our national zone to 200 miles.
It is untrue to say that the enforcement machinery and reasources have not been considerably increased. They have been increased in the case of the Royal Navy by the Island Class, two of which are now operating. The gap can be filled in the meantime by frigates, mine counter vessels, fast patrol boats, and other patrol craft, as well as by the three inshore and three offshire vessels run directly by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland. Added to this effort is the considerable enforcement surveillance undertaken by the Nimrod aircraft.
I repudiate the allegation that we are operating an ineffective enforcement. I noticed that the Trade and Industry Sub-Committee of the Expenditure Committee examined this matter carefully and, although it has not reached its final conclusions, nothing in its report published in March justifies criticism of our enforcement effort.
I can give an example of that from the Scottish point of view. Since 1st January there have been nine prosecutions in Scotland for fishing offences by foreign vessels and substantial fines are now regularly imposed in Scotland. In these cases the total fines were more than £100,000 and in all but one case the catch and gear were also confiscated. I am by no means complacent. I accept that with a 200 mile zone there are problems of enforcement quite different from those in the past when we were dealing simply with inshore waters. We have put much additional effort into it, and nothing that has happened since January would justify voting against the Government on this issue any more than anything else that has happened since January in fishing matters would do so.
§ Mr. Wall
Does the Minister agree that frigates are now taken off other duties and put on to fishery protection for short periods whereas the fishery protection squadron had each vessel staying in that squadron for two or three years so that those concerned really understood the job? That was the basis of the challenge.
§ Mr. Millan
It is not true that we do not have a Fishery Protection Squadron, and anyone who goes to the Spithead Naval Review next week will see it on display. I agree that the stop-gap measures with frigates are not satisfactory, and that is why we are building up the Island class. It is absurd to say that there has been no effort put into enforcement measures since the beginning of this year.
§ Mr. Peyton
Nobody is saying that no effort is being made in enforcing protection, but the charge made by the Opposition is that the effort has been significantly diminished at a time when pressures and needs have become greater.
§ Mr. Millan
That is absurd. It is simply factually and completely inaccurate. Effort has been significantly increased in recent months. If the Opposition are trying to justify a vote against the Government on that basis, it is too silly for words.
I turn to conservation, because hon. Members generally have stressed the importance of adequate conservation. There has already been a certain amount of discussion within the EEC for working out an adequate system, but that will take time, and we accept that shorter-term measures must be taken as necessary for the protection of our stocks. We have made it absolutely clear—as the Minister of Agriculture made clear this afternoon—that we are prepared to take unilateral, non-discriminatory action on what we regard as urgently needed conservation measures. We have made that clear within the Community. We have had, for example, an agreement on the Norway pout box and also a ban on fishing for herring in the North Sea. We stand ready, if we are not able to obtain Community agreement under the terms of the agreement we reached within the Community last October in The Hague, to take further unilateral measures. I make that clear.
If we are to have conservation measures they must be adequately monitored. We are therefore pressing ahead, in conjunction with our Common Market partners, with such arrangements as the keeping of log books, checks at sea, full collection of data on landings, and the sending of data to a central source as well as 1869 its being collected within individual countries.
I accept what has been said by many hon. Members today—that there is a great deal of scepticism in the British fishing industry about the way in which conservation measures have been carried out in the past and a great deal of suspicion that, in many places, there has been a considerable tendency to look for loopholes and doubts whether every Government have always carried out the policy with the honesty upon which conservation ultimately depends.
The herring skippers raised with me yesterday difficulties in the Skagerrak area. I have taken this up with the Commission and said that we believe that this area should be regarded as part of the North Sea and subject to the conservation measures in operation there. We are well aware of all these problems, and we do not approach them on the innocent basis of believing that if someone puts something nice on a piece of paper, it will necessarily be put into practice. We know that there has to be adequate enforcement.
The question of herring stocks in the North Sea and off the West Coast of Scotland is a matter of immediate interest and is on the agenda for the meeting in Luxembourg on Monday. There is no doubt that scientific evidence points to only one conclusion—that there should be a complete ban on fishing for herring in the North Sea and that it should be sustained for a sufficient period to allow the stocks to regenerate. To be fair to the Commission, it has twice recommended this action to the Council of Ministers, and we have supported it, but we have been in a minority of one.
Despite that, we have managed to get a ban on fishing for herring in the North Sea, but only for a month at a time. We believe that this should be extended. We fully appreciate that this will cause damage to our own herring industry, but we believe that it would be worthwhile in the long run because, without it, there is a danger to the herring stocks in the North Sea.
The question of herring off the West Coast of Scotland is also under discussion in the Community, on our initiative. There is a ban for a single month, which we supported, but we want an allocation 1870 of quotas in this area. I shall not go into detail now, but the original quotas suggested by the Commission were too large. They gave us an allocation of more than 70 per cent. of the total allowable catch for the Community, and we consider that proportion right, although we do not necessarily consider that the total allocation makes sense in terms of conservation.
As I shall be saying at Monday's meeting, we are anxious to get a conclusion about the bans off the West Coast as well as in the North Sea. Our industry is in a state of complete indecision and we want to remove that as rapidly as we can.
There are other matters with which I shall try to deal in detail. Before I come to exclusive or coastal preference zones, let me deal with third-country fishing. In some respects, we have made progress here in the last few months. There has been a certain advantage in the negotiations that we have had, through the Community, with third countries, given the widespread establishment of 200-mile national limits.
We have been able to make considerable reductions in the allowances for countries of Eastern Europe, particularly the USSR. We take a simple view in these negotiations with countries outside the Community. If they have something to offer us in reciprocal fishing rights in their waters, we are willing to reach a sensible agreement with them. When other countries have nothing to offer us in their waters, our intention is to have them phased out of our waters as rapidly as possible. It is on that basis that we are proceeding on third country fishing at the present time and, as I say, with some of the nations concerned we are making a certain amount of progress, although with the principal nations with which we have difficulty, such as Iceland, Norway and the Faroes, as my right hon. Friend said this afternoon, the situation is a good deal less satisfactory. We admit that absolutely frankly.
But I do not accept that there has been any lack of effort on our part in any of these third country negotiations. One of the things that makes it very difficult to get final agreement, for example with Norway, is that we have not yet settled within the Community our own internal 1871 régime, and it is only when we have settled that in a satisfactory way and know how much fish is available to the Community, how it is to be allocated within the Community, how we are to enforce those allocations, and so on, that we shall be able to get completely satisfactory agreements with third countries, including those which are particularly important from the point of view of the British fishing industry. Therefore, we have always argued that we should get ahead with discussions on the definitive internal régime as rapidly as possible, and I hope very much that we shall make at least some progress on this matter at the meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.
But I must make it absolutely clear to the House that in many of these matters the situation in which the Government find themselves because of the very existence of the common fisheries policy per se is that we have certain interests and the other nations of the Community have certain interests which are antithetical to the interests of the United Kingdom. It is in that situation and with that background that we are negotiating, but we are negotiating with utter determination and we have not conceded anything in the discussions on ancillary matters over the last few months on any particular item which would prejudice the situation with which we have to deal in terms of the definitive internal régime.
I am very glad to hear the House unanimous today about the importance of the 50-mile zone round the United Kingdom. There has been unanimous approval, I think, of the suggestion that we ought to concentrate on the 50 miles round the United Kingdom. But I hope that hon. Members will read very carefully the remarks that were made by my right hon. Friend today and the analysis he made of the 12-mile zone in the first place and then the wider zone between 12 and 50 miles. This demonstrates that if we could achieve an exclusive right to fish within the 12-mile zone—there would have to be a phasing-out period— and then what my right hon. Friend called a dominant preference within the 12- to 50-mile zone and also a satisfactory level of fishing in other waters—that is, in the rest of the United Kingdom's 200-mile zone and those of third countries—we would 1872 have the basis in terms of potential fish catches for providing an economic fishing industry for this country.
What the House must remember all the time is that all the arguments about limits, preferential zones, exclusive zones, enforcement and the rest are directed towards achieving a satisfactory total catch, satisfactorily distributed over the different species, for the British fishing industry —and in saying that I have the Scottish industry, my own responsibility, very much in mind.
§ Mr. James Johnson
Does my right hon. Friend understand that we may even get in total 800,000 tonnes, but what about the distant-water fleet, because if we are not allowed an entry into the old fishing grounds, these big vessels of ours cannot go into inshore fishing? What will they do about these?
§ Mr. Millan
There has been a reduction, and my right hon. Friend gave the figures for distant-water fishing. I think that a realistic appraisal of the situation is that we shall not be able to recover all of them within the waters concerned because the Norwegians themselves are cutting back on what they are willing to offer to us and the rest of the Community since from their point of view we are third countries. So it is not a practical possibility to reproduce in the future exactly the same fishing pattern as we have had in the past.
That does not mean that we should not have an industry of the same size rather differently distributed with a firm base for progress in the future. That is what the argument is about. We are basing our argument—apart from the history of the matter—on the simple proposition that we contribute to the waters of the Community as a whole more than 60 per cent. of its fishery resources, and that that must be given full consideration in any negotiations on the internal régime as well as matters of historic catches.
In taking account of our demands we have very much in mind the losses that we have inevitably incurred in the waters of third countries. We are determined to make this up, as far as possible, first, within the 50-mile limit and then within the waters of the United Kingdom up to the 200-mile limit.
We are facing very difficult negotiations, but I think it is common ground 1873 that my right hon. Friend and other Ministers in these negotiations put the case for the United Kingdom with considerable vigour and determination. I notice that the Expenditure Committee, in the report to which I have already referred, stated:We have been impressed by the determination which the Government has displayed in attempting to secure the best possible future for the British industry within the Community's CFP.…We have been satisfied with the Government's negotiating stance so far".I return to the point that I made at the beginning of the debate. It is extraordinary that the Opposition should have chosen to organise the debate in this way with an apparent determination, in the face of all the facts and, in my view, against the national interest, to have a Division at the end. Nothing has been said from the Opposition Front Bench, nor by Opposition Back-Bench Members, to justify a vote against the Government tonight.
I believe that, given the history of this matter and given the abject failure of the Conservative Government to protect the fishery interests of the United Kingdom when leading up to our accession to the Common Market——
§ Mr. Teddy Taylor rose—
|Division No. 181]||AYES||[10.00 p.m.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Clark, Alan (Plymouth, Sutton)||Fry, Peter|
|Alison, Michael||Clark, William (Croydon S)||Galbraith, Hon. T. G. D.|
|Amery, Rt Hon Julian||Clarke, Kenneth (Rushcliffe)||Gardiner, George (Reigate)|
|Arnold, Tom||Cockcroft, John||Gardner, Edward (S. Fylde)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H. (Spelthorne)||Cooke, Robert (Bristol W)||Gilmour, Rt Hon Sir Ian (Chesham)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Cope, John||Glyn, Dr Alan|
|Bain, Mrs Margaret||Corrie, John||Godber, Rt Hon Joseph|
|Bell, Ronald||Crawford, Douglas||Goodhew, victor|
|Bennett, Dr Reginald (Fareham)||Crouch, David||Goodlad, Alastair|
|Benyon, W.||Crowder, F. P.||Gorst, John|
|Biffen, John||Davies, Rt Hon J. (Knutstord)||Gow, Ian (Eastbourne)|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Dean, Paul (N Somerset)||Gray, Hamish|
|Blaker, Peter||Dodsworth, Geoffrey||Griffiths, Eldon|
|Body, Richard||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James||Grylls, Michael|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Drayson, Burneby||Hall, Sir John|
|Bottomley, Peter||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.|
|Bowden, A. (Brighton, Kemptown)||Durant, Tony||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes (Brent)||Dykes, Hugh||Hampton, Dr Keith|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Eden, Rt Hon Sir John||Hannam, John|
|Brittan, Leon||Elliott, Sir William||Harvie Anderson, Rt Hon Miss|
|Brocklebank-Fowler, C.||Emery, Peter||Hastings, Stephen|
|Brooke, Peter||Evans, Gwyntor (Carmarthen)||Havers, Rt Hon Sir Michael|
|Brotherton, Michael||Ewing, Mrs Winifred (Moray)||Hay hoe, Barney|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Eyre, Reginald||Henderson, Douglas|
|Bryan, Sir Paul||Fairbairn, Nicholas||Hicks, Robert|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick||Fairgrieve, Russell||Hodgson, Robin|
|Buck, Antony||Fell, Anthony||Holland, Philip|
|Budgen, Nick||Finsberg, Geoffrey||Hordern, Peter|
|Bulmer, Esmond||Fisher, Sir Nigel||Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey|
|Burden, F. A.||Fletcher, Alex (Edinburgh, N)||Howell, David (Guildford)|
|Butler, Adam (Bosworth)||Fookes, Miss Janet||Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)|
|Carlisle, Mark||For man, Nigel||Hunt, David (Wirral)|
|Chalker, Mrs Lynda||Fowler, Norman (Sutton C'f'd)||Hunt, John (Bromley)|
|Churchill, W. S.||Fox, Marcus||Hurd, Douglas|
§ slightly more than his fair share of the time. Given the failure of the Conservative Government to protect our fishing interests during the negotiations for entry to the Common Market and the fact that there is considerable agreement on both sides of the House tonight about the essential interests of the United Kingdom fishing industry which have to be protected in the renegotiations, I consider it utterly deplorable that the Opposition, for what I imagine to be some misguided belief that it would be politically opportune, should have chosen to debate this subject in such a way that it will lead to a Division.
§ It will cut no ice with the fishing industry. I and my right hon. Friend have acted all through these negotiations in the closest consultation with representatives of the fishing industry. I met them yesterday, and they will be in Luxembourg during the discussions next week. I believe that what we are doing has the support of the industry and of the country. I hope that the House will reject this deplorable attempt by the Opposition to defeat the Government.
§ Question put, That this House do now adjourn:—
§ The House divided: Ayes 236, Noes 250.1877
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Monro, Hector||Sinclair, Sir George|
|James, David||Moore, John (Croydon C)||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E Grinstead)||More, Jasper (Ludlow)||Smith, Dudley (Warwick)|
|Jopling, Michael||Morgan, Geraint||Smith, Timothy John (Ashfield)|
|Joseph, Rt Hon Sir Keith||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Admiral||Speed, Keith|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Morris, Michael (Northampton S)||Spence, John|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Spicer, Michael (S Worcester|
|Kilfedder, James||Morrison, Hon Peter (Chester)||Sproat, lain|
|Kimball, Marcus||Mudd, David||Slanbrook, Ivor|
|King, Evelyn (South Dorset)||Neave, Airey||Stanley, John|
|Kitson, Sir Timothy||Nelson, Anthony||Steen, Anthony (Wavertree)|
|Knox, David||Neubert, Michael||Stewart, Rt Hon Donald|
|Lamont, Norman||Newton, Tony||Stewart, Ian (Hitchin)|
|Langlord-Holt, Sir John||Nott, John||Stokes, John|
|Latham, Michael (Melton)||Onslow, Cranloey||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lawrence, Ivan||Oppenheim, Mrs Sally||Taylor, R. (Croydon NW)|
|Lawson, Nigel||Osborn, John||Taylor, Teddy (Cathcart)|
|Lester, Jim (Beeston)||Page, Rt Hon R. Graham (Crosby)||Tebbit, Norman|
|Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Page, Richard (Workington)||Temple-Morris, Peter|
|Lloyd, Ian||Pattie, Geoffrey||Thatcher, Rt Hon Margaret|
|Loveridge, John||Percival, Ian||Thomas, Rt Hon P. (Hendon S)|
|Luce, Richard||Peyton, Rt Hon John||Thompson, George|
|McAdden, Sir Stephen||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Townsend, Cyril D.|
|MacCormick, lain||Prior, Rt Hon James||Trotter, Neville|
|McCrindle, Robert||Pym, Rt Hon Francis||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Raison, Timothy||Vaughan, Dr Gerard|
|MacGregor, John||Rathbone, Tim||Viggers, Peter|
|MacKay, Andrew James||Rawlinson, Rt Hon Sir Peter||Wakeham, John|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M. (Farnham)||Rees, Peter (Dover & Deal)||Walder, David (Clitheroe)|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (Newbury)||Rees-Davies, W. R.||Walker, Rt Hon P. (Worcester)|
|McNair-Wilson, P. (New Forest)||Renton, Tim (Mid-Sussex)||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir Derek|
|Madel, David||Rhodes James, R.||Walters, Dennis|
|Marshall, Michael (Arundel)||Ridley, Hon Nicholas||Watt, Hamish|
|Marten, Neil||Rifkind, Malcolm||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Mates, Michael||Roberts, Wyn (Conway)||Wells, John|
|Maude, Angus||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)||Welsh, Andrew|
|Maudling, Rt Hon Reginald||Rost, Peter (SE Derbyshire)||Whitelaw, Rt Hon William|
|Mawby, Ray||Sainsbury, Tim||Wiggin, Jerry|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||St. John-Stevas, Norman||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Scott, Nicholas||Wood, Rt Hon Richard|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)||Young, Sir G. (Ealing, Acton)|
|Miller, Hal (Bromsgrove)||Shelton, William (Streatham)||Younger, Hon George|
|Mills, Peter||Shepherd, Colin|
|Miscampbell, Norman||Shersby, Michael||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Silvester, Fred||Mr. Spencer Le Marchant and|
|Moate, Roger||Sims, Roger||Mr. Carol Mather.|
|Abse, Leo||Clemitson, Ivor||Foot, Rt Hon Michael|
|Allaun, Frank||Cocks, Rt Hon Michael||Forrester, John|
|Archer, Rt Hon Peter||Cohen, Stanley||Fowler, Gerald (The Wrekin)|
|Armstrong, Ernest||Conlan, Bernard||Fraser, John (Lambeth, N'w'd)|
|Ashley, Jack||Corbelt, Robin||Freeson, Reginald|
|Ashton, Joe||Cowans, Harry||Garrett, John (Norwich S)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston N)||Cox, Thomas (Tooting)||Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)|
|Atkinson, Norman||Crawshaw, Richard||George, Bruce|
|Barnelt, Guy (Greenwich)||Cronin, John||Gilbert, Dr John|
|Barnett, Rt Hon Joel (Heywood)||Crowther, Stan (Rotherham)||Ginsburg, David|
|Bates, Alf||Cryer, Bob||Golding, John|
|Bean, R. E.||Cunningham, G. (Islington S)||Gould, Bryan|
|Beith, A. J.||Cunningham, Dr J. (Whiteh)||Gourlay, Harry|
|Benn, Rt Hon Anthony (Wedgwood)||Davidson, Arthur||Graham, Ted|
|Bennelt, Andrew (Stockport N)||Davies, Bryan (Enfield N)||Grant, George (Morpeth)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Davis, Clinton (Hackney C)||Grant, John (Islington C)|
|Blenkinsop, Arthur||Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Grocott, Bruce|
|Boardman, H.||Deli, Rt Hon Edmund||Harrison, Rt Hon Walter|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Dempsey, James||Hart, Rt Hon Judith|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Doig, Peter||Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy|
|Boyden, James (Bish Auck)||Dormand, J. D.||Hatton, Frank|
|Bradley, Tom||Douglas-Mann, Bruce||Hayman, Mrs Helene|
|Bray, Dr Jeremy||Duffy, A. E. P.||Healey, Rt Hon Denis|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Provan)||Dunn, James A.||Heffer, Eric S.|
|Brown, Robert C. (Newcastle W)||Dunnett, Jack||Hooley, Frank|
|Buchan, Norman||Eadie, Alex||Horam, John|
|Buchanan, Richard||Edge, Geoff||Howe, Rt Hon Denis (B'ham, Sm H)|
|Callaghan, Jim (Middleton & P)||Ellis, John (Brigg & Scun)||Hoyle, Doug (Nelson)|
|Campbell, Ian||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)||Huckfield, Les|
|Canavan, Dennis||English, Michael||Hughes, Mark (Durham)|
|Cant, R. B.||Ennals, David||Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)|
|Carmichael, Neil||Ewing, Harry (Stirling)||Hughes, Roy (Newport)|
|Carter, Ray||Fernyhough, Rt Hon E.||Hunter, Adam|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Irving, Rt Hon S. (Dartford)|
|Cartwright, John||Flannery, Martin||Jackson, Colin (Brighouse)|
|Castle, Rt Hon Barbara||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Janner, Greville|
|Jeger, Mrs Lena||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Smith, John (N Lanarkshire)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Moyle, Roland||Snape, Peter|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Mulley, Rt Hon Frederick||Spearing, Nigel|
|Johnson, Walter (Derby S)||Murray, Rt Hon Ronald King||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Newens, Stanley||Stallard, A. W.|
|Judd, Frank||Noble, Mike||Stewart, Rt Hon M. (Fulham)|
|Kaufman, Gerald||Oakes, Gordon||Stoddart, David|
|Kelley, Richard||Ogden, Eric||Strang, Gavin|
|Kerr, Russell||O'Halloran, Michael||Strauss, Rt Hon G. R.|
|Kilroy-Silk, Robert||Orbach, Maurice||Summerskill, Hon Dr Shirley|
|Kinnock, Neil||Orme, Rt Hon Stanley||Swain, Thomas|
|Lambie, David||Orenden, John||Taylor, Mrs Ann (Bolton W)|
|Lamborn, Harry||Padley, Walter||Thomas, Mike (Newcastle E)|
|Lamond, James||Palmer, Arthur||Thomas, Ron (Bristol NW)|
|Latham, Arthur (Paddington)||Pardoe, John||Thome, Stan (Preston South)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Park, George||Tierney, Sydney|
|Lee, John||Parker, John||Tinn, James|
|Lestor, Miss Joan (Eton & Slough)||Parry, Robert||Tomlinson, John|
|Lever, Rt Hon Harold||Pavitt, Laurie||Torney, Tom|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Pendry, Tom||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lipton, Marcus||Penhaligon, David||Varley, Rt Hon Eric G|
|Lyon, Alexander (York)||Perry, Ernest||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne V)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford W)||Price, C. (Lewisham W)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Mabon, Rt Hon Dr J. Dickson||Price, William (Rugby)||Walker, Terry (Kingswood)|
|McCartney, Hugh||Radice, Giles||Ward, Michael|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Rees, Rt Hon Merlyn (Leeds S)||Watkins, David|
|McElhone, Frank||Richardson, Miss Joe||Weetch, Ken|
|MacFarquhar, Roderick||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Weitzman, David|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Roberts, Gwilym (Cannock)||Wellbeloved, James|
|MacKenzie, Rt Hon Gregor||Robinson, Geoffrey||White, Frank R. (Bury)|
|Maclennan, Robert||Rodgers, George (Chorley)||White, James (Pollok)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow C)||Rodgers, Rt Hon William (Stockton)||Whitlock, William|
|Madden, Max||Rooker. J. W.||Willey, Rt Hon Frederick|
|Magee, Bryan||Rose, Paul B.||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornch'ch)|
|Mahon, Simon||Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)||Williams, Rt Hon Shirley (Hertford)|
|Mallalieu, J. P. W.||Ross, Rt Hon W. (Kilmarnock)||Williams, Sir Thomas (Warrington)|
|Marks, Kenneth||Ryman, John||Wilson, Alexander (Hamilton)|
|Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)||Sandelson, Neville||Wilson, Rt Hen Sir Harold (Huyton)|
|Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)||Sedgemore, Brian||Wilson, William (Coventry SE)|
|Maynard, Miss Joan||Selby, Harry||Wise, Mrs Audrey|
|Meacher, Michael||Shaw, Arnold (llford South)||Woodall, Alec|
|Mellish, Rt Hon Robert||Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert||Woof, Robert|
|Mendelson, John||Shore, Rt Hon Peter||Wrigglesworth, Ian|
|Mikardo, Ian||Silkin, Rt Hon John (Deptford)||Young, David (Bolton E)|
|Millan, Rt Hon Bruce||Silkin, Rt Hon S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)||Sillars, James||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Mitchell, Austin Vernon (Grimsby)||Silverman, Julius||Mr. James Hamilton and|
|Molloy, William||Skinner, Dennis||Mr. Joseph Harper.|
|Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Small, William|
|Question accordingly negatived.|