§ 2. Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives)
What representations he has received on proposals for the reform of the common fisheries policy. 
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Nick Brown)
The Ministry receives many suggestions—I cannot truthfully say that I have seen them all yet—for improving the common fisheries policy, including some from the hon. Gentleman, who has been assiduous in his efforts on behalf of fishermen from St. Ives, Newlyn and Hayle.
§ Mr. George
May I first warmly welcome the Minister to his new post? Now that he has taken on the brief, is he aware how anxious fishermen in the United Kingdom are for reform of the common fisheries policy, especially in terms of the need to ensure equality in monitoring and 513 enforcement throughout the European Union? Is he prepared to make a statement this afternoon about the previous proposals to ensure that licensing arrangements for all fishing vessels, including quota hoppers—the new arrangements to establish a clear economic link—are introduced soon?
§ Mr. Brown
I am aware of the concerns in the fishing community about enforcement. My predecessor in this job, my right hon. Friend the Member for Copeland (Dr. Cunningham), made it the centrepiece of the British presidency and took tough action. I have inherited the fruits of that, and will continue to do as he did.
On quota hopping, I understand the need to ensure that all British-registered fishing vessels that use United Kingdom quotas also bring benefits to our fishing communities. Last year, the Prime Minister secured a clear statement from the President of the Commission about the steps that we could take, and my predecessor put to the Commission proposals based on careful discussions with all concerned. I am pleased to say that we have now secured the agreement of the Commission to our proposals.
I shall make a detailed announcement later today, but I am certain that the House will want to know now that our measures will require all United Kingdom vessels to demonstrate, by one method or another, that they have real economic links. Choices will be available, including landing, crewing and other economically significant activities. I believe that those measures will make a real difference to the benefits that we receive from United Kingdom quotas—and will achieve that with the minimum burden for vessels that already have economic links.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his accession to the most important job in British government today. May I also express the hope that he adopts the same firm but conciliatory policy towards the fish and the fishing industry as he adopted towards the parliamentary Labour party? I also hope that he will accord a big role to the proposals made by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation about coastal state management, so that power is transferred down from Brussels to coastal states to manage their own waters and control their own conservation, with better effect than a centralised policy.
§ Mr. Brown
Those proposals are under consideration by the Ministry now, and I hope to meet in the relatively near future representatives of those most interested. I thank my hon. Friend for his welcome for me to my new responsibilities; as he will know, I had quite a bit to do with him in connection with my previous responsibilities.
§ Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray)
In welcoming the right hon. Gentleman to his new position in the Government, may I pursue some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell)? Much serious consideration has been given to the issue of coastal management, and I would like to know when the Government will decide how they will argue that case in the renegotiation of the fisheries policy.
§ Mr. Brown
Those are important matters, and there will be several consultation meetings. As the hon. Lady 514 knows, probably in more detail than I do at the moment, some of the issues will be devolved and will eventually fall under the responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament. I intend to discuss the Scottish aspects of fisheries matters closely with my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I hope to be able to give the hon. Lady a fuller reply soon.
§ Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central)
May I, too, welcome my right hon. Friend to his new job? For the record, I should say that we have had very little contact over the past year. He is taking over an extremely important brief, and I look forward to welcoming him to Aberdeen to meet the fishermen and fish processors. He has made an important announcement this afternoon; we look forward to hearing the details later. Will he say more about his intentions? In particular, will the scheme have the flexibility to allow fishermen choices about how they operate?
§ Mr. Brown
I thank my hon. Friend for welcoming me to my new duties. I look forward to visiting Scotland to discuss these matters with his constituents and their representatives. He is right to say that I did not have much to do with him in my previous capacity; I look forward to having much more to do with him in my new one.
My hon. Friend rightly asks whether there will be a range of choices for compliance. The answer is yes. There are proposals, for example, that 50 per cent. of the catch of quota species should be landed in the United Kingdom; that 50 per cent. of the crew must be resident in United Kingdom coastal areas; and that a certain level of operating expenditure must be incurred in United Kingdom coastal areas. Other measures will be spelled out in more detail at 4 pm.
§ Mr. John Wilkinson (Ruislip-Northwood)
In welcoming the right hon. Gentleman to his post, may I commiserate with him on having to exchange one bed of nails for another? He will soon find that the common fisheries policy has been an unmitigated disaster for our country, ecologically and economically—communities round our coasts have been economically devastated by it. Will he, in the recess, take the ferry from Newcastle to Norway to sound out fisheries communities? If he does, he will find that Norway's national fisheries management has been an unbounded success—it provides an example that we should follow.
§ Mr. Brown
I intend to take a close interest in all these matters, not only because my responsibilities require it, but because I want to do so anyway. I think that the hon. Gentleman's approach is wrong. We must negotiate with the other interested parties rather than assert that they are all wrong and that somehow, we have a solution for the United Kingdom that we can adopt without reference to our friends and neighbours. The hon. Gentleman says that I have moved from one bed of nails to another, but my previous job was no bed of nails.
§ Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood)
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his new position and thank him for his announcement about quota hoppers. He may be aware that the Fleetwood Fish Producers Organisation recently invited 38 Anglo-Spanish vessels to join it, and that the grant that Wyre district council is 515 offering to the local fishing industry is tied in with various conditions on local economic links. Will he advise local fish producers associations, port managers and local authorities on the details of his proposals on quota hoppers, which I am sure will be greeted with much interest in my local community?
§ Mr. Brown
I am sure that they will and, yes, everyone with an interest will be advised on exactly what the Government propose. As I said to the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George), the Government take enforcement seriously; it is right that everyone should know precisely what will be enforced, as, I assure the House, enforced it will be.
§ Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland)
I offer my congratulations to the right hon. Gentleman; if he can make such an announcement after two days in office, we wait with bated breath to see what he can do in the first two months. I echo what has been said about coastal state management. Will he assure us that regional management of fisheries will be developed and that fishermen will be involved in setting total allowable catches, as they have expertise as well as a stake in the outcome? Concepts such as the north of Scotland or Shetland box should also be developed in any renegotiation of the common fisheries policy.
§ Mr. Brown
I am very keen to make sure that we make progress in renegotiating the common fisheries policy. I am also keen to ensure that we examine how much room for manoeuvre we have within the regime in terms of making adjustments in decision making, and perhaps even devolving some decision making. Nevertheless, the parameters are fixed, and I shall not take the approach urged on me by the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson). The approach of the hon. and learned Member is far more constructive.
§ Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye)
Is my right hon. Friend aware that the beach-based, under-10 m fleet at Hastings has this year recorded its lowest catch in history, wholly as a result of quota hopping? I refer to quota hopping not from other countries, but from former over-10 m fleets which have shortened their vessels and moved in to take the historic catch of my constituents. Will he take some form of enforcement to ensure that that does not continue to occur?