§ 12. Mr. Matthew Taylor
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the present state of the fishing industry.
§ Mr. Taylor
While the Minister looks towards effective conservation, he will inevitably be aware of the great hardship being caused to some in the fishing industry and of the fact that bankruptcy threatens no small number. Will he consider again a decommissioning scheme to help the process take place naturally without the need for bankruptcy and the poverty that that brings? I hope that he will be able to bring better news to the House.
§ Mr. Curry
No, I do not believe that the answer lies in a decommissioning scheme. I believe that it lies in better management measures, which would introduce a greater element of market forces, and also in effective conservation measures of precisely the kind that we have announced today for haddock.
§ Sir Michael Shaw
Is my hon. Friend aware that although the quota system has been with us for some time, fish stocks seem never to have been more inadequate? What is the cause? Is it that the quotas have been pitched wrongly or that they have not been adhered to?
§ Mr. Curry
I think that there is an element of both. I think that the quotas have been over-generous in the past, but the way in which fishing has taken place has meant that there have been discards. Equipment has sometimes behaved in a different way from that expected. For example, we have a 90 mm net, but when it is operated it is equivalent to a 60 mm net in some cases. Therefore, the answer must lie in much more selective gear in the fishing industry.
§ Mr. Morley
Is the Minister aware of the disappointment of fishermen that licences are still being issued for the dumping of toxic waste, even though the Government promised that it would be stopped by December last year? Is he further aware of the disappointment that licences will be issued for sewage sludge dumping for at least eight more years? I appreciate that there has been a decade of lack of investment in sewage outfall works, but will the Minister take steps to phase out licences for sewage sludge dumping and other dumping and stop our seas being used as a cesspit?
§ Mr. Curry
First, no licences are issued to dump toxic waste, because the waste is not toxic. Secondly, within two years from now there will be only a couple of licences, and they will disappear very shortly after that. Thirdly, it is by no means an open and shut question that there will be a net environmental gain from incinerating sewage sludge rather than putting it into the sea. We have decided that that is the effective course to take and we shall do so at the earliest opportunity, given the problem of planning permission for building plant. We have an extremely comprehensive programme which the hon. Gentleman should support.