§ 10. Mr. Menzies Campbell
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make it his policy to introduce a decommissioning scheme for fishing vessels.
§ Mr. Campbell
I welcome the Minister's lukewarm conversion to the idea of a decommissioning scheme, but will he explain why it has taken so long? Fishing interests have long urged a change of attitude on the Government. Has it not been clear for some time that sensible conservation measures can be achieved only if the fishing fleet is restructured in a sensible way?
§ Mr. Curry
I do not agree. It is important to distinguish between decommissioning as the sole instrument of conservation, and the other conservation measures that are necessary. It is simply not true to say that decommissioning by itself does anything for conservation; technical conservation and effort control must also be part of the process. As I have said, however, we are prepared to consider the possibility of a decommissioning scheme, provided that it is part of an overall conservation package. Conservation is, of course, important and I stress that fishing organisations must include it in their proposals if they wish to be taken seriously.
§ Mr. Harris
I appreciate the difficulties that surround a decommissioning scheme and I agree with my hon. Friend that it is not a panacea. Does he agree, however, that the pressure for such a scheme to be introduced is likely to increase in view of the Commission's latest proposals—not yet made public—for some pretty hefty cuts in quota, not least for the south-west of England? Will he agree to receive an all-party delegation of Members of Parliament tO discuss the details of a scheme?
§ Mr. Curry
I have already said that I will accept a delegation of hon. Members to discuss the possibility of decommissioning; in fact, I believe that a date has been agreed. Let me make it clear, however, that in accepting the delegation I am not accepting the principle of decommissioning. Conservation must be seen as a package. Effort control is part of that package; decommissioning could be part of it. I am having an extremely constructive dialogue with the fishing organisations and I hope that it will continue. The fact that that dialogue is beginning is due to the fishing industry's recent recognition that effort control matters.