§ The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)
I beg to move.That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. R/2988/75, R/2519/77, R/2520/77, R/1514/78 and 8959/80 on structural policy, No. 8583/80 on catch reporting, No. 8957/80 on conservation, No. 8958/80 on 1980 quota allocations, No. 9047/80 on quota allocation criteria and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's unnumbered memorandum of 21 July 1980 on access: and supports the Government's objective of a satisfactory overall settlement of the revised Common Fisheries Policy in its own right at the earliest possible opportunity which takes adequate account of the need to conserve and safeguard fish stocks and of the overall requirements of the United Kingdom fishing industry.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bernard Weatherill)
I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I should like to draw the attention of the House to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's unnumbered explanatory memorandum of 22 July 1980 and corrigendum of 1 August 1980, which relate to document No. 9047/80 and which are also relevant.
The official text of document No. 9129/80 on access has now been received, and it was made available in the Vote Office on Wednesday. In essence, it is identical to the unnumbered illustrative text that was originally supplied in relation to the unnumbered explanatory memorandum on access that is referred to in the motion.
I welcome the opportunity for this debate because it comes at an important time. In the autumn there will be a series of important meetings of Fisheries Councils in Europe, when decisions may be taken. I very much welcome this opportunity for the House to express its views on these vital negotiations.
The Government's objectives in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy remain as we have stated them on many previous occasions, from this Box and elsewhere. I should like to summarise the four essential principles as I see them. First, we believe that we must have an 880 adequate exclusive zone. Secondly, we must have further preferential access beyond that exclusive zone. Thirdly, we must have a proper control system. Fourthly, we must have a substantial share of the total allowable catch which takes account of the fact that we are contributing most of the water and most of the fish to the total waters of the EEC.
Through recent Councils, particularly through bilateral contacts which my right hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland have had, I believe that at present, and certainly compared with the position 15 months ago, there is a very much better understanding in Europe of the United Kingdom's position and of its aspirations in relation to the renegotiation of the CFP. Indeed, on many areas —this was particularly apparent at the last Fisheries Council in July—there is an identity of interest between some of our objectives and those of other countries. They have similar interests to our own. I believe that on that basis we have an opportunity for progress which has not been there previously.
I should also like to refer to the Foreign Affairs Council on 30 May, when an agreed text on fisheries was issued following that meeting. I draw the attention of the House to three aspects of it. First, that agreement urged a settlement of the CFP by the end of this year. This is something that we support, because in a period of uncertainty it is very difficult for any industry to continue on the present basis. Provided that we get a satisfactory settlement—I emphasised that in what I said earlier—it is right that we should try to seek a settlement by the end of this year.
Secondly, the document contains a number of criteria that are to be used in the negotiations towards that settlement. All those criteria are acceptable in relation to our objectives in the renegotiations.
Thirdly, that agreement from the Foreign Affairs Council makes it clear that there is no linkage with the budget and that the fisheries policy has to be settled on its merits.
We now have new proposals from the Commission on quotas, on conservation and on structures. We also have a paper —I make that distinction on purpose—on access.
881 Looking ahead to the future meetings of Fisheries Councils, to which I referred a few moments ago, there is a Fisheries Council at the end of September. We would hope at that Council to see conservation measures discussed and to see some progress made on that matter then. There is likely to be a further Fisheries Council in October. At that Council we would expect to see more substantive discussions, and we would hope to see progress on the crucial matters of quotas and access.
It is for that reason that I particularly welcome the opportunity for this debate this evening, because these Councils are to take place during September and October.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I agree with the Minister that it is necessary to get an agreement on the CFP. If a policy were to be agreed in October or November, when does the Minister think that it would come into force concerning quotas and conservation?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
That would depend upon a number of factors. For example, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the document on conservation he will see that different items of conservation come into force on different dates. Therefore, there would be different dates for different parts of the agreement. What I should like to make clear—this is probably the point that underlies what the right hon. Gentleman is saying—is that we shall not agree to individual items. We want to see a package as a whole that is acceptable. We may make progress on individual items of the package, but we want to be able to reserve our judgment on the package as a whole.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
I wonder whether the Minister would answer the counterpart to the question put by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). What will happen if a CFP is not agreed this year?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
The purpose is to try to negotiate a satisfactory CFP. In the event of not getting a satisfactory CFP, we shall be in a different situation. The United Kingdom will then have to reassess the situation, but at present we are in the process of negotiating a CFP. 882 I believe that that is what we should have our attention on now.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
I do not wish to anticipate the Minister's argument, but is it not a fact that if we do not get a genuine settlement, with the Nine signing together, by old year's night of this year and we come to new year's morning, we shall have to take what is there? Is that not so?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
That is not true. The document to which I referred earlier refers to the date by which it is hoped that the new policy can be negotiated.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
There will be opportunity later for speeches. I have very helpfully given way for three interventions. I would rather get on. We have time for the debate. I shall be very happy to deal with any detailed points at the end of the debate, with the permission of the House.
I have mentioned the new proposals before us, and I should like now to deal with them. In some respects these proposals are an improvement on what has been on offer previously. There are some aspects—I shall develop this as I go along—on which we have considerable reservations. I should like, therefore, to deal fairly quickly with the different proposals before us—with the proviso that I hope to be able to speak again at the end of the debate.
First, I should like to deal with the document on conservation—No. 8957/80. I deal with it first because that is the document on which we expect substantive discussion in the Fisheries Council in September. This document is an improvement on what has been available up to now. This is particularly important in relation to white fish mesh sizes, which is an important aspect of our fisheries. What I find most encouraging of all about this document is that we have in it a recommendation on conservation that is much more firmly based on scientific advice than previous proposals have been. This has always been one of the firm bases on which successive Governments have 883 argued the case for a CFP. In this respect, this document is an improvement
We believe that progress is possible on this matter. This answers the point made by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). This is the one indication that, as long as the broad objective is achieved of increasing particular mesh sizes for more effective conservation, there might be some room for movement on the phasing in of different mesh sizes, perhaps even variations for different areas, to take account of current practice.
A particularly unsatisfactory aspect concerns the important pout box in the North Sea. Evidence over the years shows that it is an important conservation measure. However, we have recently received a court decision which does not help the United Kingdom. We are considering that decision and how to negotiate on it.
Secondly, I should like to deal with catch reporting, which is referred to in document No. 8583/80. A considerable amount of detailed work remains to be done. It is a crucial aspect of the common fisheries policy. As I am sure the House will agree, and as anyone who knows about fishing will agree, if a common fisheries policy is to be effective there must be common standards. Those standards must be properly applied by all countries, Governments and industries within the EEC. Our objective in relation to catch reporting is to obtain an effective system. If a system is not effective, it is not worth anything. Negotiations are taking place because we want a system that does not add any unnecessary administration and bureaucracy. In addition, the effectiveness of the system must not be sacrificed.
Thirdly, quotas are a crucial and "crunch" area in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. Documents Nos. 9047/80 and 8958/80 are involved. I shall deal first with document No. 9047/80, which deals with the principles that should be used when calculating quota allocations. Most of the criteria laid down in the document are sensible, and we agree with them. However, we are concerned about some of them and about the way in which they might be 884 applied. I shall mention only four of those criteria.
First, we do not believe that sufficient allowance has been made for losses sustained in third country waters. The United Kingdom is in a different position, in terms of magnitude, from any other European nation. The German fishing industry is the nearest in size to ours, and it is far behind us. We are worried that sufficient weight will not be given to that factor.
Secondly, there must be more emphasis on the discounting of industrial catches, particularly excessive by-catches of edible species in industrial fishing. Over the past year I have discovered that European industries with a greater tradition of industrial fishing than Britain are becoming more aware that the emphasis should be placed on catching for edible purposes. We are dealing with a scarce resource. We must husband it and look after it properly. Although that is mentioned in the document, insufficient weight has been given to it.
Thirdly, we are concerned about the preferences applied to the Hague areas. Those areas resulted from an agreement in 1976, and they involve the waters around Northern Ireland and the North Coast of Britain and as far down the North-East coast as Bridlington. Reference is made to Hague preferences in the calculation of quotas. We are concerned about the way in which the Hague preferences are applied, particularly when two countries with such preferences lie opposite each other, such as Britain and the Irish Republic. We are not happy about the way in which the preferences are applied, and we have reservations about them.
Fourthly, as the common fisheries policy has not been negotiated, the fishing industry is suffering from uncertainty. If an agreement on quotas is to be reached, we must ensure that the quotas have a certain degree of staying power and are not agreed for just one year. In that way our industry and the industries of other countries will have some certainty about future opportunities. Sufficient emphasis has not been given to that in the Commission's criteria.
The second document on quotas, about which there has been much comment in the fishing press and elsewhere, is No. 885 8958/80. It puts forward figures and percentages for the possible quota allocations to the different countries within the Community. When my right hon. Friend made a statement after the last Fisheries Council meeting, he stressed that the figures were merely illustrative of the criteria. They are not formal proposals from the Commission. [Interruption.] Opposition Members may laugh, but that is precisely what was said in the Council, and outside it, in July. The position is clear and the figures can be negotiated.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
After four or five years of negotiations under successive Governments on the so-called renegotiation of the common fishery policy, why are we still dealing only with illustrative proposals?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
The Labour Government made it impossible for renegotiation to take place. The fault lies with the Opposition. At least we have proposals which illustrate how the calculations will work. Now, and in the autumn, we shall seek more definite quota proposals. The figures are useful. In some areas there has been an improvement in the allocation of some important stocks, such as mackerel, haddock and whiting, but we have considerable reservations about the proposals. Indeed, we have some simple arithmetical reservations. We have made strong representations to the Commission. In addition, we have made plain to the Council and to the Commission that more discussion is required before further progress can be made.
I should like to turn to structures and to document No. 8959/80, which replaces all the other documents listed under the "structures" heading. The proposals are interesting. They allow financial contributions for the restructuring of the fishing industries of member countries. I shall not pass any comment on the proposals at this stage. We shall judge them by their suitability for the United Kingdom industry. Whether they are suitable for our industry will depend on the outcome of other aspects of the negotiations, such as those on access and quotas. Until we know the position, it will be difficult to judge how effective and useful the proposals are.
While we welcome the commitment of Community funds, we must ensure that 886 those funds are used in the most effective way.
§ Mr. David Penhaligon (Truro)
Did the conversations about access include the Soviet Union's access to the mackerel fishery off Cornwall? Have the Government made up their minds about whether the Russians will be allowed in this year?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
Neither the Soviet Union nor any other Eastern European country fishes within the 12-mile limit off the South-West coast. Nor do they fish in the remainder of the limits. That is worth putting on record, because if one listened to hon. Members one would think that the Russians were fishing for mackerel in that area. I know that there is concern. Considerable efforts have been made, both locally and by the Government, to do something about the way in which those activities are conducted. However, if we did not have markets for the products of that fishery it would have a considerable effect on the constituents of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and on other areas. The hon. Gentleman should reflect on that.
I have spoken on the issues covered by the documents before us tonight. These issues are crucial to negotiations on the common fisheries policy. While these negotiations are continuing, there is great uncertainty in our fishing industry. In these circumstances, the industry cannot plan for the future and there is an obligation on the Government to help it through this period of renegotiation. Government aid to the fishing industry in the current year amounts to £23½ million. Because of the uncertainty during the period of negotiation on the CFP, we now propose further aid of just over £14 million up to the end of the financial year. This brings to over £37 million the total assistance that the Government are making available to the fishing industry. We believe that it is imperative that the United Kingdom fishing industry is kept viable, in order to meet the opportunities that will be open to it when the negotiations on the CFP are completed. To fail in this would undermine what we have been working for in the Community. This new aid will sustain the industry during the period of the negotiations.
The aid will take the form of payments to vessel owners. We have responded 887 swiftly to the industry's case—it is less than one month since we received its final figures. We shall now move equally quickly to complete our consideration of the details of the new scheme. Our officials will meet representatives of the industry very shortly to outline the proposed scheme. My right hon. Friend has discussed the urgent need for this measure with the European Commission and will notify it formally of the details, which will be worked out in consultation with the industry.
We also propose to make a further £900,000 available this year for replacement fishery protection vessels. This will enable contracts to be placed for the two vessels currently being built by Hall Russell of Aberdeen. I know that that news will be welcome in Aberdeen. I already hear approving noises from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who is sitting behind me.
Parliamentary approval for the new scheme and for the consequential increase of £15 million in cash limits to cover both the aid and the additional fishery protection costs will be sought in Supplementary Estimates. Pending that approval, the new expenditure on fisheries aid will be met by repayable advances from the Contingencies Fund.
§ Mr. Bruce Millan (Glasgow, Craigton)
The Minister of State has given a precise figure of just over £14 million. He must have some idea of the form that that aid will take. He must be able to give some more information. May we have some idea of the broad lines of the scheme of assistance, even though the details have yet to be worked out?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am happy to respond to that request. Our purpose is to use the money by paying it in aid to vessel owners on the basis of individual vessels. We believe that that takes account of the varying types of vessel in the fishing industry and the different costs that are involved in different sections of the industry. There are a number of different ways in which this can be applied, and it is thought that the ways that will be used will no the all that different from those used in the past. For example, aid could be paid in relation to the size of the vessel and its type of operation. 888 We envisage the type of scheme of which we already have experience in this country.
The right hon. Gentleman must understand that I do not wish to go into more details of the scheme tonight. The needs of different sections of the industry vary, and we want to consult the industry about the best way that the aid can be applied most effectively to sustain the fishing industry during the course of the renegotiations on the CFP.
§ Mr. Robert Hughes
Does that mean that the aid that the Minister has just announced will be expended in a different way from the £2 million that was given a few months ago?
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
The money that was given a few months ago was in two forms: first, £1 million for exploratory voyages; and, secondly, £2 million which was applied through fish producer organisations. We intend to apply this money differently.
§ Mr. McNamara
Will the Minister of State give a broad indication of the division of this money between the different fleets? For example, how will it be divided between the deep water, middle water and inshore fleets? In that way, we could get some indication of what was intended for our own areas.
§ Mr. Buchanan-Smith
I am afraid that I cannot do that. That is precisely the area in which we must consult the industry. One thing that has marked the fishing industry under successive Governments has been the high degree of consultation between the Government and the industry. That is particularly important where there is such great variety within the industry, not only in the kind of fishing but in the areas in which it operates. I am not trying to hide anything from the House, but we believe that the details of the scheme are best worked out in consultation with the industry, as has happened in the past on the question of aid.
889 In conclusion, I believe in what I have said, particularly for the longer term. We have before us crucial negotiations in which we hope to achieve a satisfactory settlement of the common fisheries policy. While the aid question is important, I hope that both the House and the industry will not lose sight of the important long-term objectives which last not just for the next six or nine months but long into the future and which are crucial to the success and well-being of the industry.
In the shorter term, both in relation to what the Government did in response to the industry in April this year and by a real response again in terms of hard cash to meet the needs of the industry in the renegotiation period, we have shown not only to the House but to the fishing industry and to the country that the Government are fully committed to the support of the United Kingdom fishing industry.
§ Mr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East)
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add,and in particular, maintains the need to secure exclusive access within 12 miles, preferential access within 12 to 50 miles, and an overall share of fish for United Kingdom fishermen which reflects United Kingdom losses incurred in third country waters and the contribution made by United Kingdom waters to total European Community fish resources.'.The Minister of State referred to the importance of this debate. We would all agree that ideally we would have liked a statement on the aid package followed by a full day's debate on these very important documents. I make no complaint about the arrangements, however, because we realise that near the end of the Session it is necessary to encapsulate the debate in this way. We are discussing issues of immense importance to the fishing industry. In fact, we are talking about its very survival, in both the short and the long term.
The Minister of State announced that the Government intend to give £14 million of aid to the industry. I address my remarks to that matter. The fishing industry is in a desperate state. There is no doubt that it is on the verge of collapse and there is no doubt that our fishermen would not take action unless the position was serious. They are not 890 militant by nature, but what they have done shows their fears about their livelihoods being in jeopardy.
The Government's announcement must be judged against the state of crisis in the industry. It must also be judged against the demands of the industry. I think that the request for £35 million of aid to sustain the industry to the end of the year was probably a reasonable and objective assessment of the industry's needs.
The industry was anxious to outline realistically the financial basis that it needs purely to survive. I am glad to see that the Minister is nodding assent. We have to compare the aid offered with the industry's £35 million estimate and the extent of the crisis.
The £14 million should be accepted by the industry. The Government are acting in good faith. I hope that when the fishermen's organisations meet tomorrow and on Saturday they will accept the £14 million and continue fishing. However, that sum should not be the end of the story this year. It should be viewed as an urgent and necessary lifeline to sustain the industry until Parliament resumes at the end of October. A great deal can happen in that short time. The Government's response is a fair one, and I hope that the fishermen will not institute unofficial action similar to that last month.
We must also consider the very cheap imports that are doing immense damage to the market. I hope that the Government have not decided against temporary action. We accept that there cannot be a ban on fish imports. Many sections of the industry are dependent on imports for processing. However, fish is coming to this country from inside and outside the Community at unrealistic prices, which is enormously damaging to our industry. The action within the Community to increase protection was inadequate. I hope that the Government will not accept the increase in the reference prices as adequate for the future.
The documents are immensely important to the industry. First, let us consider the proposals on the allocation of fish to member States. We should be under no illusion that the bargain that may be struck over quotas is vital to the future of the United Kingdom fishing industry. Although the quotas relate only to 1980, they will form the basis for 891 quotas in subsequent years. It is crucial to get them right and to ensure that we get a fair share of the fish. As they stand, the proposals are wholly inadequate. Over 60 per cent. of the Community catch is in British waters. Our fishing industry is asking for approximately 45 per cent. That is a realistic demand, which takes account of the pressures on Britain within the Community. Our industry wants a resolution of the matter. With such a large proportion of the fish in British waters, 45 per cent. is reasonable. It is argued that the Community proposals amount to about 30 per cent. I shall not go into details. What counts are the allocations for the species. I use overall figures only to indicate how far short of our needs the proposal falls. The quotas for many species must be improved.
There is need for exclusive access in the 12 miles adjacent to our coast. That is vital—and we mean exclusive. Although sections of the industry argue for exclusive access for 50 miles or more, we consider that 12 miles is realistic. We must phase out historic rights within that limit. That will not be achieved overnight. However, we must limit those rights, so that that 12 miles becomes genuinely exclusive to British fishermen.
Equally important is our stance over the 12-to-50 miles argument. The previous Government argued for a dominant preference for British fishermen in the 12-to-50 mile limit. We stand by that. It is vital to have that dominant preference. Our position is on record. We want to secure a disproportionate share of the benefit of conservation measures in that limit. In addition, if we are successful, as we believe we shall be, in conserving the fish within the 50-mile limit, in future quotas we want to ensure that our industry gets the lion's share of the benefit.
We all accept what the Minister said about the importance of conservation. The hon. Gentleman referred to recent court decisions. I hope that there is no question of the conservation measures being lifted. The whole House regards them as justified on scientific grounds and in the interest of preserving stocks.
There is no doubt that the stand that we took on the Norway pout box has already helped stocks. The proposal in 892 that area is still inadequate, and I hope that the Government will insist on the right of member States to introduce nondiscriminatory conservation measures in advance of Community decisions. It is important that we should hold on to our right to introduce such conservation measures in British waters.
Of course, it is a question not only of conservation measures but of enforcement. The previous Labour Government were as responsible as are the present Government, but I worry whether we have the capability to enforce the sort of conservation measures that will be needed.
The bulk of the waters involved are British waters, and whatever conservation measures are agreed, whether they are British initiatives or Commission initiatives, Britain will be responsible for enforcing them. It has been suggested that there will be a committee of nationals from the member States to supervise the monitoring and implementation of conservation measures. I hope that the Minister of State will give us an indication of the Government's attitude to that suggestion. He will accept that there is no substitute for our having the capability to implement such measures in our waters.
§ Mr. Penhaligon
Does the hon. Gentleman think that Britain has achieved such conservation in the past? Many of those involved in mackerel fishing in the West Country believe that last year's regulations and catch limits were an abject and miserable farce. Over-catching totalled at least 50 per cent. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that?
§ Mr. Strang
We have to accept that the measures were not successful in some areas, though that is not true of herring fishing. The industry, to its credit, accepted a ban and, while there may be a little restlessness, the overall judgment is that we must sustain the measures in order to allow stocks to increase. I accept that the application and enforcement of some of the measures relating to mackerel were not stringent. Part of the reason was the reaction to what had happened elsewhere. We know that measures are not being enforced by other member States in the way that we enforce them. An easier attitude was taken towards mackerel.
893 If we are to have effective conservation measures, enforced throughout the waters of the EEC, they must be operated fairly. Many sections of our industry have no respect for the way in which the measures are enforced by other Governments. The "World in Action" film demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that there was a substantial flouting of the conservation measures and that officials who might have been able to contain it were turning a blind eye.
If we do not achieve acceptability of the way in which conservation measures are being enforced throughout the Community, the whole idea of a common fisheries policy will be doomed to failure.
The other area in which there are many important proposals concerns the plan for structural measures. The Minister of State was reluctant to say much about those measures, but I believe that we can obtain a substantial amount of new money for our industry through the application of some of those proposals, albeit after modification. By "new money" I do not mean that people should be paid to get out of the industry. I do not mean that money should be paid for laying up vessels. By "new money" I mean money to modernise and replace old vessels, so that they are more fitted to our modern industry.
The £14 million for temporary aid is simply to sustain the current catching capacity. None of that money should be paid to vessel owners who do not intend to put their vessels to sea. That money is a temporary package to sustain our present catching capacity, so that we have an industry to take advantage of what we hope will be a satisfactory settlement.
The money to be used for negative purposes or for helping people out of the industry is important. It is important in relation to Denmark and industrial fishing. Some parts of the industry are dependent upon that type of fishing, and there is a case for Community money being used to help it through the transitional period. If we are to succeed in the negotiations, the structural money must be used in Britain to modernise our fleet and to give us the capacity to catch fish efficiently in the future.
Important discussions are to take place in September and probably in October. They are vital to our industry. The £14 894 million is a demonstration of good faith by the Government. However, there is a long, hard way to go yet. The industry wants a settlement, because the future is so uncertain. It must not be a sell-out: it is too vital for that.
Of course, the budget issue is important. The Prime Minister, who was present for part of the debate, is right to attach the highest priority to the budget, but let us not forget that the fishing industry will be with us long after the budget issue has been forgotten. The fishing industry will be contributing to our national well-being long after the oil has run dry.
Potentially, fishing is a growth industry. It could make a great contribution to our economy. A satisfactory common fisheries policy is in its interests because much of the fish that we catch is outside British waters at some stage. If we can achieve effective conservation and management of the stocks in the North Sea and a fair deal for ourselves, we shall secure something which is worth while for the country. It will not be easy, but the Government will have the united support of the House of Commons if they insist on securing the type of deal that we have described many times in the House.
§ Sir Walter Clegg (North Fylde)
I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his announcement. The £14 million aid is to go to the most important part of the industry—the catch—because that is where the help is needed. I hope from what he has said, although he cannot give much detail, that it will be more effective aid than the last £3 million. Most of the aid must be directed to that part of the industry.
The Minister of State and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food must have had a hell of a fight with the Treasury to achieve the £14 million in the present circumstances. I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) for being fair and saying that the Government's offer of £14 million is a fair response to the request from the industry.
The Minister knows well the position in Fleetwood, where all our middle-water vessels are tied up. I hope that this aid will enable them to put back to sea and 895 to make the port viable again. We cannot judge that until we see how the allocation will be made. We shall then be able better to judge the matter.
I also thank my hon. Friend for steering us through this glutinous mass of EEC matter. It was a terrible prospect to collect it from the Vote Office. We were weighed down carrying it away. It made equally heavy reading. At times it was like reading "Hamlet" without the Prince of Denmark because the common fisheries policy was not there. All the structural parts of the documents are based on the fact that there is a common fisheries policy—but there is not. Structuring will play a part, and I hope that the restructuring will preserve the industry and not simply come in the form of payments to the industry to lay up vessels.
The one factor that I do not see mentioned in the documents is compensation for fishermen made redundant through no fault of their own. No matter what we say, some will be made redundant because of the loss of fishing opportunities and catch potential in Third world waters. In other industries such as steel and coal there have been considerable redundancy payments. Because of the way that British fishermen are paid, it appears that no provision will be made for them either by the Government or by the EEC. I hope that my hon. Friend, when he negotiates the structure, will bear that point in mind to ascertain whether anything can be done to help them. It is exceedingly difficult for those men to apply skills learnt at sea to jobs ashore.
I turn to the other factor raised by the Minister, namely, his intention to negotiate the common fisheries policy on the basis of the agreement reached between the House and the industry. We thank him for his assurance. I am sure that he will do his best to stick to that agreement in the negotiations. When he comes to deal with the question of a fair distribution of catches, I hope that he will place great emphasis on the loss of catch potential in Third world waters which has hit our fishing industry. We suffer from an inability to catch the right fish at the right time and at the right price. I am glad to see that that point is covered in the documents. I hope that 896 my hon. Friend will bear it well in the forefront of his mind during the negotiations.
Everybody in the House connected with the fishing industry is concerned about conservation and quotas. We are of one mind that policing must be effective. We saw many examples on the Granada programme of the way in which quotas can be broken down. We are right to press the Minister—as we and the Labour Party have done—to ensure that any schemes for quotas and conservation are policed. That will be the key to the effectiveness of the common fisheries policy once it is settled.
Many hon. Members wish to speak. I conclude by thanking my hon. Friend once again for what he has said today. I hope that it means that Fleetwood will now receive some substantial help by which it can survive and grow again.
§ Mr. Kevin McNamara (Kingston upon Hull, Central)
I do not intend to delay the House, so perhaps I may behave like a grasshopper, jumping from point to point, rather than spend 20 minutes agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) or picking holes sin the Minister's speech.
I welcome the decision to give money to the fishing industry. Although I should have liked more to be given, I thought that the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) underplayed the point when he stressed the amount of money that had been obtained from the Treasury. I agree, and I congratulate the Minister on getting so much money for the industry. However, it would have been better to have more detail for our constituencies about the distribution of the money to the different sections of the fleet. I understand that the Ministry wants to discuss general matters with the industry, but giving details of percentages and of differences between England and Scotland—
§ Mr. McNamara
Indeed—and Northern Ireland, while its fleet is still there. Then we might have had some idea of what would happen in our areas.
Any schemes will emerge in August, September and October, when the House 897 is in recess, and there will be no opportunity to bring parliamentary pressure to bear to have matters examined more fully. I therefore regret that we are having this debate on the penultimate day before the recess, but even having it yesterday or the day before would not have allowed us much time.
My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East was right to sound a note of caution about taking a truly drastic attitude towards the problems presented by imports. I understand that there are difficulties, but cheap imports are important for the consumer and as a source of employment for those working in processing in the factories. We must try to strike a balance between the two. We should not rush into an absolute ban but should be selective among countries, prices and species of fish. That would be better than blanket proposals in some areas.
Such places as Humberside and Fleetwood, which depended a great deal on third country fishing areas, will need considerably more compensation from any common fisheries policy than is being given to the inshore and middle water fleets. That compensation should take the form not only of restructuring and providing immediate employment for fishermen but of a more direct and positive regional policy, encouraging industries and giving benefits and inducements to industry to refurbish and invest in those areas.
In towns such as Hull there have been enormous cuts in the fishing fleets and job opportunities have been slashed, not only on vessels but in shipbuilding and processing, because of a lack of opportunities in third country waters. Such areas need not only restructuring of the fleet but a great injection of captal to rebuild the basis of their economy.
Whenever one asks representatives of the owners what they are doing, they say "We do not know. Until we see the shape of the policy and know what is happening, we cannot make investment or restructuring decisions." That is what makes a coherent package and a coherent plan of urgent importance.
Here I differ with the Minister. I do not share his joyful anticipation that at the end of the year, or early next year, we shall have a common policy. I do 898 not think that we shall be able to agree with the French, who will be engaged in presidential elections, with the Germans, during their elections, or with the Irish, during their possible elections. I do not believe that we shall achieve a coherent policy on our share and on the attitude and reaction of the countries involved. In those circumstances, every country will be fighting for its own corner.
What happens at the end of the year if we do not reach agreement? If we do not have a package, are we prepared, as I believe we should be, to take strong and positive unilateral action to achieve the objectives which are contained in the Opposition amendment?
I congratulate the Government—though I appear to be constantly carping—and thank them and Lord Bellwin for the encouragement they gave to the initiative of the trawler owners, the TGWU and the fish merchants of Hull in the establishment of a fish landing company in Hull. Hull city council was the catalyst in the efforts to establish and to maintain a viable fish landing facility there. It would be churlish of me not to have recognised Lord Bellwin's work. We would have liked far more. We would have liked a proper policy. But at least we have maintained that facility. We hope for the establishment of proper dock charges so that we may maintain them not only until the end of the year but into the foreseeable future.
However, I do not believe that the Government will succeed in obtaining a common fisheries policy. I do not believe that our colleaguese—if that is what they are—in the Community will allow us to achieve what we believe we are entitled to. For the important crumb of comfort that we have received fom the Government, however, I express my satisfaction.
§ Mr. Alex Pollock (Moray and Nairn)
I wish to add my warmest congratulations to the Government on bringing forward this much-needed package of aid for the industry. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg), we are all too keenly aware how difficult it is to extract cash from the Treasury just now. It is a signal triumph for my hon. Friend the 899 Minister and his colleagues and, I am sure he would agree, for the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is, perhaps, in no small measure due to the continuing personal interest of the Prime Minister. It was a pleasure to see her present at the opening of this debate. Her attendance was in total contrast to the complete absence of the self-styled defenders of the Scottish fishing industry, the Scottish National Party. I trust that their absence has not gone unnoticed in Scotland.
I also emphasise the background of consultation preceding the Government's decision. It is vitally important that the industry should realise the great need at all times for an open-door policy between the leaders of the industry and the Government. At this critical time Europe would like nothing better than to see a divide between the Government and the industry. I am pleased at the way in which the Government have consistently taken the leaders of the industry with them in discussion and negotiation. I trust that they will long continue to do so.
The longer-term goals are more important. However, I do not intend to discuss the documents in any detail. I merely wish to highlight the three key objectives. The first is a realistic total allowable catch. The second is restricted access to United Kingdom waters. The third is a fair and just quota share for United Kingdom boats. Those, coupled with enforcement, must remain the key objectives for a successful policy.
The Government must show their good faith with their assistance to the industry on the terms requested earlier this year. They are continuing to show their determination to maintain a viable industry with tonight's announcement. With that record of good faith behind them since taking office, it behoves us all to wish the Government well in their future endeavours.
§ Mr. J. Enoch Powell (Down, South)
A strange spirit of brevity has descended upon the House—not, in the context of this subject, to be confused with levity.
Why is it that our trawlers and our fishing fleets are being tied up and are rotting and rusting at the quayside when that is not happening to the trawlers and 900 the fishing fleets of the other member States of the European Community, or of Iceland or Norway? Every hon. Member, whether present in the Chamber for this debate or not, knows perfectly well what the reason is. It is that our membership of the European Economic Community has cost us the control of our own sovereign waters.
It is for that reason that we need compensation, as the hon. Member who represents the Fleetwood fishermen, the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg), was saying, for the third country waters in which we can no longer fish. We do not possess a bargaining counter. We have no power to make an understanding with third countries, as have those who are not shackled as we are.
Within the European Community we have no bargaining capacity. Under the Treaty by which we joined, the other countries could fish up to our beaches by waiting until 1982. But now they no longer have to wait until 1982; the crucial date is now the end of this year.
§ Mr. Powell
The hon. Gentleman denies that. I understand that the Government—no doubt in good faith—say that the date of the end of December is not linked with the other matters, that there is no package linking that date with the budget agreement of the spring. The question is not what we think. It is not whether we think that there is a package. The question is whether the other countries think that there is a package. They openly refer to one. The French do. All the reports that come from Brussels talk about a budget package, of which the fishery understanding about 31 December 1980 was a part.
If one is to sell a house, it is not specially advantageous to be told that it has to be sold by 31 December. That is not conducive to getting the terms that one wants. We shall be placed in the position of being told, if we fail to comply by the end of the year, that we are defaulting upon the spirit of the agreement of which this issue forms a part.
It is little wonder that our fishing industry is under pressure inside the Community. We have handed away our entire position. We have handed away the control of our waters. On top of that, 901 we have imposed upon ourselves undertakings that place the bargaining power in the hands of others. Those others have been referred to as our colleagues or partners. But they are not in this instance our colleagues or partners; they are our enemies. It is their intention to strip the United Kingdom. That is what it is all about, and that is what people should understand. That is why the terms were made for us when we joined the Community. That is why those terms were re-enforced in the context of the budget agreement. The object of the other countries is to put Britain out of fishing altogether, to take our place, to use our waters and our fisheries and to have our fleets off the seas. That is their object, and there is no point in being mealy-mouthed about it.
The Minister talked about the preparation of our fleets and our fishermen for new opportunities as a result of a common fisheries policy that is to be negotiated. If we have not those opportunities now, at whose expense are we going to gain them? Who is benefiting at the moment from our restrictions? Who is gaining by our losses? Does the Minister imagine that those advantages, enjoyed by the other countries today, will be given up in order to arrive at a common fisheries policy? It is the most absurd innocence.
It is all very well for the Government to put down a motion of platitudinous aspirations. The word "aspiration" was used by the Minister in his speech. It is all very well for the Opposition to spell out more precisely the conditions that they would like to see. Both Front Benches and both sides in the argument know perfectly well that we have no power to obtain these conditions. We are at the receiving end. We have taken down our trousers and given the rod to others.
How did we come to be where we are? How did we come to wreck our own fishing industry? How did we come to betray our own national interests? It was part of a larger betrayal. It was part of the supreme betrayal of handing away this country's sovereignty and the sovereignty of this House to an external body. If that is not betrayal, there is no meaning to the word "betrayal".
On both sides of the House, those whose names are attached to the motion 902 and to the amendment have put party before country. The Conservative Party put party before country in the 1970 Parliament. The Labour Party, by its pretence that this could be an open question, put party before country in the 1974 Parliament. Party before country has resulted in the betrayal of Britain. The fishermen of Britain are among the first, but they will not be among the last, to feel the consequences of having surrendered our own independence and our right to control that which is ours.
This is the biggest of all questions. It is not a question of 12 to 50 miles of preferential access, or whether it is to be 35 per cent. or 45 per cent. The rest of the nations of the Common Market care nothing for these things. Whatever agreements they enter into, they have no need, no necessity and no requirement to keep them. We can hear them saying that they do not intend to keep them. Have we not yet learnt, from our experiences in other fields, what reliance is to be placed upon arrangements and agreements made with the Common Market? We have no opportunity to protest or to get our own back, for we have surrendered the power to do so.
We are beginning to taste on the seas, the very home of Britain, the bitter fruit of subordination, the bitter fruit of the betrayal of which both parties in the House have been guilty. The fishermen and those who will suffer, their families, and the fishing ports and fishing areas should understand the cause. It is not the fault of any external authority. It is not the difficulty of arriving at a common fisheries policy. It is the fact that the fishermen have been betrayed, and are now contemplating the consequences. That is what this debate is about.
§ 9.4 pm
§ Mr. Iain Sproat (Aberdeen, South)
I hope to continue the practice of brevity that has been adopted so far in the debate.
My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock) began by saying how glad hon. Members were to see the Prime Minister on the Front Bench at the beginning of the debate. My hon. Friend is right in saying that the success of my hon. Friend the Minister of State and his right hon. Friends in securing aid for the industry owes much to the knowledge of the industry that my right hon. 903 Friend the Prime Minister learnt in the North-East of Scotland shortly before the last general election.
My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn, with characteristic courtesy, played down the other side of the coin, which, contrary to the presence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, was the absence of the Scottish National Party. This may seem a small matter and perhaps hardly worthy of notice, but on the Benches beside me are hon. Members who defeated members of the Scottish National Party at the general election—members who had previously based almost their entire campaign in Scotland on the vicissitudes of the fishing industry. Yet, when the subject comes to be debated in the House of Commons where something really has been done, thanks to my hon. Friend, where are they? The} are not here. I hope that the voters in Moray and Nairn, Banff and Fife, East will notice the SNP's absence and draw the correct conclusions from it.
I said that I wanted to follow the practice of brevity, so I shall. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister of State for two announcements which will bring great pleasure to Aberdeen. The first, to which I shall return, was the announcement of £14 million of aid. The other issue, which perhaps will not have been so widely noticed in the House, was what he said about the Hall Russell shipyard and the confirmation of the order for two off shore patrol vessels worth £13 million. I congratulate him on managing to get that order confirmed.
If I enter a note of criticism, it is not criticism of my hon. Friend. But there is a note of criticism that it has taken so many weeks after an order was promised to Hall Russell to get it confirmed. During these past many weeks, there has been deep concern in Aberdeen that, the building of the vessels having been begun, they would not be paid for. Hall Russell has been losing £15,000 a week in interest, because somewhere within the mechanics of Whitehall confirmation of the order could not come through. I know that my hon. Friend was foremost in getting the order through. He was one of the heroes of the piece. But I hope that he will look at the machinery which could have allowed this matter to 904 go on for so long and ensure that such a delay with substantial financial consequences does not happen again.
The second matter for which I give my hon. Friend thanks and congratulations is the £14 million aid. I am glad that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) welcomed it in such a generous manner. I thought that was exactly the note that he should have struck. It demonstrates how in this House, perhaps somewhat precariously and contrary to the speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), we still manage to keep substantial areas of agreement on the fishing industry.
§ Mr. Sproat
The right hon. Gentleman says "That is the trouble." How wrong he is. If we are to succeed in these renegotiations, it will be precisely because we have the support of a 90 per cent. united House of Commons.
I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on easing the Common Market down the road of realism. We have not got there yet, as we have seen from the documents before us, but they have certainly gone much further down the road towards realism and justice than they have been before. For that, we should pay some tribute to the negotiating skills of my right hon. and hon. Friends.
Recently there have been reports in the press that the Government were not properly in touch with the fishing industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) wrote a splendid letter to The Scotsman pointing out what rubbish that was. He said it then. Now he has the proof. The fishing industry may want more. It wanted £35 million and it got almost £15 million. None the less, whatever else can be said, it cannot be said that the Government were not in close touch with all sections of the fishing industry. I can think of many other industries which would be grateful for half the contact with Ministers which the fishing industry enjoys.
I suspect that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will ask why the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South welcomes this aid when he does not believe in giving aid to industries that 905 are down on their luck. Perhaps I can pre-empt that by saying that a substantial difference must be drawn between industries which have problems of their own making, such as British Leyland, and those which have problems that are not of their own making, such as the fishing industry. We have already heard that the problems of the fishing industry arose because of the loss of the Icelandic fishing grounds and because of the complexities of the common fisheries policy. Those problems are not the fault of the industry. They were created by Governments, and rightly, it behoves Governments to try to solve them. That is why I pressed for aid for the industry and why I welcome, without restraint, the aid that is to be given.
However, this aid is only a stopgap measure to keep the industry ticking over until the common fisheries policy can be renegotiated. Most hon. Members who are present have made many speeches in the House during the last year on the subject. There is no point in going over all the old ground again—the need for access, the need for proper quotas, the fact that 65 per cent. of the fish in the collective waters of the EEC is caught in British waters and the fact that we shall not be content with 25 per cent. of the catch.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State rightly said that the quota suggestions from our Common Market partners were illustrative. Indeed they were. But I hope that they were not illustrative of the genuine thinking of our partners. I hope that they will be under no illusion after this debate or after meetings with my hon. Friend. There is no way that the British fishing industry could accept the pathetic quotas, whether in global or species terms, that it has so far been offered. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East was right in saying that 45 per cent. was a realistic but rather low estimate by the fishing industry and a generous negotiating percentage.
I am grateful, as the industry will be, for what my hon. Friend has announced today, but the fishing industry does not want to live on subsidies. It wants my right hon. and hon. Friends to renegotiate a common fisheries policy with a framework within which the industry can thrive and prosper without subsidies.
§ Mr. James Johnson (Kingston upon Hull, West)
Perhaps I might intervene in this Aberdeen imbroglio and say that I found the Minister of State as courteous as ever and that he gave us an informative, comprehensive survey, but what did he actually say? He told us that the Government were giving the industry a cash boost of £14 million to £15 million. I must not be churlish, because this is the second injection to the industry this year. The Minister emphasised that and added that another £23 million had been injected into other sections of the industry. Some people think that that aid is miraculous, but I do not.
In a way, this money is a boost in a rapidly deteriorating situation. It is a stopgap measure that will give hope—I hope, more than faint hope—to many thousands of fishermen. How the moneys are shared out between vessel owners is a technical point about which, no doubt, we shall hear later. I do not know what the fishing leaders will say. For months we have had a pilgrimage on their part to Westminster Hall. They have not come to a Klondike. More often than not, it has been a pilgrimage to Canossa for some of them. It was shocking for people such as myself and many of my colleagues to see really hard men who had fought in the war and gone to sea against Hitler and others becoming so demoralised by their situation, financial and otherwise. I am glad that these men have got something that they deserve. They deserved a jolly sight better than what they were getting previously— £2 million here and £1 million there.
The hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) has left the Chamber. Let us look at what he called this glutinous mass of documents. I have studied them carefully. I am antagonised by the verbal humbug. They are full of wonderful intentions and aspirations. Let us look at article 2, on page 13, of document 8958/80, which has been mentioned by the Minister, which talks about joint ventures between firms or people in these sister States.
I listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I shall not go as far as he went, but I ask, as he does: where is the political will to have these joint ventures and to 907 have what he might term a share-out and a fair deal? What do these pious phrases and saccharine sentences mean for a place such as Hull?
I saw the film on BBC television which was mentioned by the hon. Member for North Fylde. One of our best Hull skippers went over to Boulogne. It was quite scandalous. He asked questions such as "Where was this herring caught?" and "How much is being unloaded?"—or loaded, as the case may be. He questioned what we would term a local harbour commissioner, and he got nothing whatever out of him. The people there smiled or nodded. This sort of behaviour almost makes me think that detente, just as between the East and the West blocs, is almost impossible inside the Council of Ministers. The malaise is exemplified by articles in Fishing News about this.
However, I come back to the draft legislation—document No. 8958/80. In his explanatory memorandum, the Minister says "No account is taken" and so forth.
When no account is taken of these conditions in doing business with third nations, of course this is vital to Hull. We have lost all our distant fishing banks—Iceland, Norway, the White Sea, the Barents Sea, Greenland, Labrador and God knows where else. We want what the paper says—a fair distribution of catches. We want attention paid—again, as the paper says in these saccharine sentences—to the special needs of local populations, particularly thosedependent upon fishing and allied occupations.I come to the matter of the loss of catch potential in third country waters. The Minister used the most illuminating phrase when he said that these were "illustrative figures". Dear me! It goes down to 42,000 tonnes and 105 points of a ton. How on eath these tables are supposed to illustrate the case, I do not know. I would much sooner go on to a percentage of quotas.
There were leaks during the talks in June. When we returned to this Chamber there was talk of 31 or 32 per cent. of pelagic catches coming to us and about 38 per cent. of demersal fish—vital to Hull—cod, haddock, hake, halibut and so on. Later estimates put our share at 908 40 or 45 per cent. I do not understand that. All hon. Members know that, according to our scientific experts, 65 per cent. of the stocks are in what most of us would accept to be our territorial waters.
The philosophy of sharing out the stocks is not in the minds of our Gallic cousins. They have a wonderful word, communautaire. A classic example can be vouched for by Hull skippers fishing in Arctic waters. The French have never fished north of 62 degrees latitude. If discussions take place in Luxembourg, Strasbourg or Brussels, the French say that they want a share of the catch of demersal fish. Those fish are caught in the Arctic, well north of 62 degrees latitude.
The table on the size of deep-water fleets is fascinating. I am amazed that the United Kingdom is still listed on paper as having the largest deep-water fleet. The statistics seem to be a bit behind the times. The position is fast changing. With national subsidies, the Cuxhaven fleet is making additions to its deep-water distant fleet. So are the Danes and the Dutch. Where are we making such additions?
I understand that £14 million or £15 million of aid is involved. It is better late than never. Is it too late? Austen Laing is the most informed fishing diplomat in Western Europe. He advises the British Fishing Federation. He wonders whether the policy is too late. The Minister listens to such men, and so do I.
I wonder whether Mr. Laing's remarks to the Committee in the other place hold water with the Minister and his advisers. He said that the major ports—I should include Fleetwood as well as Hull—could go out of business if things continued as they were. He pointed out that if he had said that 10 years ago in the bar of the Star and Garter pub in Hessle Road, Hull he would have been looked upon by skippers as a madman,
In less than a decade, we have gone from the bad position of 137 vessels down to our present position of 28. Most of them are rusting in the docks of Hull. Our partners are building fleets in anticipation of the 1980s, but our fleets are withering away. Why does the Minister, who is courteous and who has the interests of the industry at heart, tolerate 909 that? Why does the Cabinet committee, or the sub-committee, allow that to continue? With the exception of constituencies in the Hull area, and perhaps one in Aberdeen, all the fishing constituencies elect Conservative Members. The Government should do more. I do not understand why they have continued to allow such fantastically low import prices on fish from third countries.
The result of those imports is that although vessels go to sea, they lose money. They are not inefficient, but the fish that they catch earns a low price in the home harbour. I listen—as I hope we all do—to experienced political observers in this House, on television, in the unions and in newspapers. They go to Brussels with the Minister and his team. I am told by these men that the chances of agreement in the CFP negotiations depend basically on the accord between two nations—ourselves and the French. I am told that when our Minister is negotiating there he talks about "all my farmers". Let us fervently hope that in the future—and not before long—he will talk about "all my fishermen".
The Prime Minister deserves a compliment for coming to the Chamber and listening to the debate. I hope that what she hears will have some effect on the way in which she influences her Ministers. I think that it does. The Minister of State knows, and the industry knows, that the Government have the complete and unfaltering support of all sections of the House. It is up to them to bring home the bacon for our fishermen in October.
§ Mr. David Myles (Banff)
I very much welcome the chance to speak in this debate and I shall attempt to be brief, although there are a few points that I wish to make.
I welcome the bipartisan approach that the Labour Party has made to this issue. I wonder whether there is a tripartisan or quintupartisan approach as well. There is certainly not a quintupartisan approach. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, the Scottish National Party is not represented in the debate tonight. That shocks me, because in the North-East of Scotland the SNP claims to speak for the fishing industry. In the Banff-Buchan district council the 910 SNP representatives have demanded that they should take over from the Grampian regional council fisheries committee, which consists of people such as Gilbert Buchan and Willy Hay. The five SNP councillors on the Banff-Buchan district council say that they know far more about the fishing industry than the real leaders of that industry. Therefore, I am rather sad that there are no SNP Members present in the House tonight.
§ Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)
Is it not true that the Scottish nationalists have been users and abusers of the industry rather than spokesman for it?
§ Mr. Myles
My hon. Friend has said it. I need do no more than agree with him.
I wish to repeat something that I have said before in the House, and I make no apology for doing so. What our fishermen need are the "seven Cs". I may change some of those Cs slightly in view of the Minister's statement tonight, but I still think that we in the industry need those seven Cs. I use the word "we" advisedly, because I feel that I am part of the fishing industry, representing Banff as I do.
First, we need cash. We had a demonstration from the Government tonight that cash was forthcoming and I welcome that generous gesture. I also pay tribute to the Labour Opposition for being so generous in their welcome of that cash injection.
However, the aid must be used wisely. Here I slightly disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who said that the fishing industry was not responsible for the position in which it finds itself. I am not sycophantic to the fishing industry all the time. When my hon. Friend the Minister allocates the cash, I urge him not to spread it around or give it to the industry to use as it considers fit. No one is perfect all the time.
The fishermen in Buckie and the surrounding area are independent men. They are desperately trying to set up a new PO to organise themselves. Will the Government recognise urgently that that is a useful addition to fishing representation? It would greatly help in the distribution and use of the cash.
911 The second "C" is catch. My hon. Friend explained the Community's suggestions on quotas. I do not disagree with the Opposition amendment. However, I have done a lot of horse trading. The party that jumps in with figures too soon nearly always loses the argument. It would be a slight mistake to be as specific as the Opposition suggest.
The third "C" is conservation. Draft instrument R/8957/80 states that the modified proposals are an improvement on previous drafts, but problems still exist as far as the pout box is concerned. The fishermen to whom I have talked are concerned that the pout box will have to be cut because of a European Court decision. I urge my hon. Friend to consider the intricacies of the law to see how it can be bent in our favour on this occasion.
A further point on conservation concerns by-catches. By allowing them we are opening the door to abuse. Great care should be taken in allowing by-catches.
§ Mrs. Elaine Kellett-Bowman (Lancaster)
Was that not revealed in the staggering film by Granada, which has been taken to Brussels to try to convince the Commission what is happening?
§ Mr. Myles
My hon. Friend is right.
I come now to the catchers of nephrops, or prawns. That section needs to be considered. I am grateful to my noble Friend, who was wise enough to interpret the rules to allow prawn catchers to use a lifter, a chafer or a topside chafer. I appreciate that many hon. Members will not know what I am talking about, but I hope that fishermen do.
The fourth "C" is co-operation. Fish do not see the meridian line or a 12, 50 or 200-mile limit. They swim across it and are liable to be caught by whoever is on the other side. We need co-operation from our EEC partners. I say "partners" advisedly. We cannot wish them away. If they are our enemies, we should try to persuade them to be our friends. It would be a lot easier for us to live with them as friends than to brand them as enemies and keep them at arm's length.
We must also consider co-operation with third countries. The strength of the EEC in that regard is to be commended. 912 We were able to get the Iron Curtain catching power out of the North Sea because of the strength of the EEC. I welcome that.
We also need to co-operate with ourselves. There is here a slight suspicion of criticism of the fishing industry. It must stick together and must not divide and allow itself to be conquered. That could be another "C".
The next "C" is control. I welcome the agreement on catch reporting. As the World in Action "film pointed out, it is important to have a proper catch reporting system. The only way to control fishing its by coastal State control of the waters. That can and ought to be done. I do not believe that control by committee is much good.
Another "C" is construction, or what is often called restructuring. We must continue to try to restructure and to use agreements within the EEC to get sensible restructuring and we must also keep our boatyards constructing—building fishing boats, whether by scrap and build or otherwise. We must keep our fleet modernised.
We welcome the FEOGA grants. I make a plea for the simplification of the grants and for their allocation in a way that can be seen to be fair, instead of the dog-in-the-manger way in which they appear to be allocated, when no one quite understands how the grants are allocated.
The final "C" is the most important. The debate has done some good in terms of confidence. We shall not have a fishing industry unless we have confidence. I hope that the industry will realise that there are vicious forces somewhere—I do not know who pulls the strings—trying to split the industry and to destroy it from within.
The erroneous statements that have appeared in The Scotsman in the last couple of weeks have done nothing to help the fishing industry. I am all for freedom of the press, but I ask that the freedom be exercised responsibly. Let the press realise what it is doing in its short-term sensationalism. I plead with the press to be responsible and to understand that all Governments will support the fishing industry. The industry will not be sold down the river.
§ Mr. David Penhaligon (Turo)
I have learnt two things in the debate: first, that the Government have found a useful sum for the fishing industry for which there seems to be a general welcome—I concur with that general welcome—and, secondly, that it is clear that the Scottish National Party is far from dead. There is a possibility that I shall have some Celtic friends on this side of the House before long.
The Minister will not be desperately surprised to hear my views.
§ Mr. John Home Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)
I am sorry to learn that the Liberal Party is on such cordial terms with members of the Scottish National Party. Will the hon. Gentleman say more about that?
§ Mr. Penhaligon
The one thing to be said for the SNP is that its members have the good sense to sit on this side of the House. The hon. Members who replace them do not, and we might have been marginally better off if they did.
We must recognise the real progress that has been made in the negotiations. At long last, a system has been started in Europe under which catches are reported and monitored. I am not desperately enthusiastic about how far that system has gone. The relevant document is full of what should be done, but it is weak on how the system will be enforced. I am cynical because of what has happened in my part of the country in relation to catch reports in the last four or five years.
The simplest form of fishing to report must be the transhipment of fish from a large number of trawlers to a small number of klondikers or factory ships. However, we cannot succeed even in monitoring that accurately. There could be nothing simpler. The transhipment happens in one harbour. If one goes to Falmouth or Flushing in the autumn, or later at Christmas, one can see 25 or 30 large factory boats from many countries anchored there. They take supplies from British fishing fleets. Our record of monitoring that process is appalling, if the reports that I hear are accurate.
The White Fish Authority's last report indicated that Britain succeeded in ex- 914 porting twice as much mackerel as it caught. That is a productivity record held by few industries. That document is six months old, but I have yet to see a detailed explanation of an honest mistake which would contradict that ludicrous situation. Enforcing any agreement will be an enormous problem, since it cannot be managed even in Falmouth harbour.
Why has the Minister rejected the idea of a single boat to which all the trawlers have to report before they are allowed to tranship their fish to the klondikers? That is the easiest way to monitor the position. Fish cannot be transhipped to the klondikers—the factory boats—until skilled people with an eye for estimating the weight of the fish—it is all done by estimation—can apply that skill and produce a genuine and reasoned estimate. That is the minimum that is required to ensure satisfactory monitoring in that single, isolated harbour. I do not know how the Minister hopes to monitor the position throughout Europe. I am pleased that he has that job rather than I.
I am against the whole transhipment business. Britain's fishing industry is in trouble because of overfishing by super sophisticated boats for many years. It is a ludicrous farce that the one fish that breeds in large quantities in our waters is being sold to boats from the Soviet Union and East Germany. It is especially ludicrous in the light of the present political position. We are selling the fish for 4p a pound. That is the going price for what we, in my area, call Cornish mackerel but which, for the benefit of the House. I shall call British mackerel. The Government allow the Soviet bloc invasion—indeed, they encourage it—each year in our territorial waters. I see no logic in that, even in normal circumstances.
The Government begged athletes who had spent a lifetime training for the Olympics not to fulfil that brief climax of their careers, yet that self-same Government allow the invasion of our terriorial waters by enormous Soviet factory boats which have to be beholden to be believed. Looking out from Falmouth or Flushing, one sees an endless array of boats from one harbour to the other. I do not understand it, because it is not logical.
915 The Government should face the reality of what they are doing and run tremendous campaigns to make mackerel more popular. It is a standard Cornish joke that the English will not eat mackerel, and it is true. Other than the smoking industry which has been developed in Scotland, the consumption of mackerel in Britain compares not one iota with the total amount caught.
I repeat my protest once again. I cannot understand why the Government are allowing the one industry that we have to be stripped by the Soviet invasion that will take place again this year. The going price is only 4p a pound. Many people in my area will see the £14 million that the Government are providing as a subsidy to British trawlers to catch mackerel to give to the Russians at 4p a pound. That is an incredible position. I hope that the Government realise their folly before it is too late and we are left without any mackerel.
§ Mr. Barry Henderson (Fife, East)
I shall be brief. If the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) will forgive me, in the interests of maintaining the maximum possible degree of agreement within the House I shall refrain from following precisely his remarks.
It is fair to say that a broad measure of agreement has been reached in the House, with the exception of one right honourable fly in the ointment. I refer to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). While I fully acknowledge his far greater eloquence and learning, I prefer to take the sensible and practical advice of the fishermen in my constituency to that which he gave the House this evening.
§ Mr. Henderson
They are not, I am happy to assure the right hon. Gentleman. Some are, but it is a free country.
I welcome the Minister's brief reaffirmation of the Government's policy objectives for fishing. He has amply demonstrated his understanding of the facts of life in fishing and the Government's commitment, supported this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to get a settlement acceptable to the industry as a whole.
916 I was encouraged by the Government's intention, which my hon. Friend the Minister reaffirmed, to maintain the closest relations with the leaders of the industry. I have in mind the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and comparable organisations south of the border.
The Government should retain that close contact. The leaders of those organisations have shown themselves responsible, well informed and, not least important, closely in contact with those they represent, so that when they come to an understanding with the Government they can deliver. It is of cardinal importance that the industry's leaders have the respect of the Government, since they are seen truly to represent the industry.
Can the Minister give a little more information about the additional sums that he is making available? I believe that there will be a 60 per cent. increase in the amount available during this fiscal year. How much of that will be on his own Ministry's budget and how much on the budget of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland, for example?
I appreciate that the Minister is now discussing with the industry the way in which that aid will be used, although it is seen principally as help for the owners of vessels. Does he have in mind the further use of the producers' organisations in assisting in the use of the resources to the greatest possible benefit? Does he see those organisations having a continuing function in the support and management of the market place itself?
I know that there have been some difficulties in the way in which the producers' organisations have used the money provided by the Government, but in my area the system with the limited amount of money which the Government had made available through the producers' organisations had a worthwhile effect in the local market place.
Talking of the market place, I was a little disturbed when an hon. Member said something like "It will keep us ticking over until we get the CFP."
§ Mr. Henderson
My hon. Friend is quite right: it is not good enough, partly 917 because I want the industry to do better than tick over and partly because I do not believe that the CFP will be the answer to all our problems. We shall have problems to solve for fishing in this country itself, quite apart from the CFP.
In the long term, the most serious development for the fishing industry in the last decade or so has been the fact that we eat less fish. That is to the disadvantage of the people, but we do eat less and as long as we do there will be a problem for the industry.
Marketing and persuading people of the benefits of fish in their diet, both as a delicacy and for their health, are very important. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will do what he can to encourage the industry to have greater regard to the importance of marketing
§ Mr. Robert Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
I had not intended to refer to the longstanding disagreement between the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and myself on the principle of State industry. Though he has temporarily left the Chamber, it is necessary—since he trailed his coat, as he put it—to make one or two remarks on the subject.
I understand that constituency circumstances alter cases and that the general principle of being opposed to State aid is very much watered down in relation to one's own constituency. That is certainly true of Conservative Members. They have made much play this evening of the Prime Minister's interest in and presence at this debate. That may be because, three days before the last election, six Conservative candidates sent a panic telegram because they thought that they were about to lose their seats. The telegram called for the Conservative Party to propose a proper fisheries policy.
I do not object to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South trimming his coat—I see that he has now returned to the Chamber—to suit the circumstances. However, I object to the fact that, when we are speaking of aid to other industries, the industries seeking State aid are referred to in a grossly offensive manner. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South did not use this particular phrase, but yesterday a Conservative Member at Question Time referred to people rattling 918 begging bowls in front of the Government.
If we wish to be consistent, we must recognise that the fishing industry could be said to be rattling a begging bowl in front of the Government. But the industry that rattles its begging bowl most often, and with the greatest success, is the agriculture industry.
In that context, I now turn to the matter of aid to the fishing industry. That aid must be judged not just on its own terms but in terms of what the Government do for other industries. It must be judged particularly in relation to agriculture, where £15 million would be regarded as a small sum indeed.
Conservative Members have been almost overcome by euphoria at the granting of £15 million to the fishing industry. I do not blame them, given the record of their Government in cutting public expenditure. They are grateful to be able to go back to their constituencies this weekend and speak of £15 million in aid.
I say that £15 million is inadequate. It is inadequate in relation to what the industry sought. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) spoke of the £15 million in relation to the £35 million asked for by the industry. He and I, perhaps, have slightly misinterpreted what the industry asked for. We should make it clear that—as I understand the position from papers I have received from the industry—the industry was asking for £35 million for Scotland over the year. The industry was saying that the shortfall—what the industry needed in terms of costs and interest—was £70 million. Therefore, we are talking about £15 million as part of a total of £70 million, not as part of a total of £35 million.
The announcement of £15 million worth of aid is not news. The aid was widely forecast in the press. In The Press and Journal yesterday some of the fishermen's leaders commented on the sum of £15 million.
§ Mr. Henderson
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. I was somewhat disturbed that he had spent a fair amount of time casting aspersions at some of my 919 right hon. and hon. Friends. I was hoping that, with his knowledge of the industry, he would address himself to the documents that we are discussing.
§ Mr. Hughes
That is more than the hon. Gentleman did when he spoke, but I shall come to the documents in due time. Mr. Roddy McColl, assistant secretary of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said yesterday that the sum of £15 million was significant. I accept that. He said that it was significant if it was meant as a help until the year's end. Mr. Ian McSween, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Organisation, said that the cash infusion would be the minimum needed to see the industry through to about the end of the year. I give this quotation:Chairman of the Aberdeen Fishing Vessel Owners' Association, Mr. David Craig, said: 'We do welcome financial assistance. Whether it is sufficient to keep the fleet going until the end of the year I am not sure. It is a question of how it is going to be allocated'.It can be fairly said that that is a muted response from the fishing industry.
We are entitled to ask the Government how long the money is intended to last. As I understand it, the Minister said that the money is to last until the end of the financial year. Whose financial year is the hon. Gentleman—
§ It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.