§ [Relevant document: European Union document No. 12137/02, Commission Communication, a strategy for the sustainable development of European aquaculture.]1.18 pm
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley)
I beg to move,
That this House takes note of European Union documents No. COM (02) 181, Commission Communication on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy ("Roadmap"), No. COM (02) 185, draft Council Regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy, No. COM (02) 187, draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 2792/1999 laying down the detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector, No. COM (02) 190, draft Council Regulation establishing an emergency Community measure for scrapping fishing vessels, No. COM (02) 186, Commission Communication, a Community Action Plan to integrate environmental protection requirements into the Common Fisheries Policy, and No. COM (02) 180, Commission Communication, a Community Action Plan for the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and supports the Government's objectives, which are to work for a Common Fisheries Policy that is environmentally and economically sustainable, to strengthen the Common Fisheries Policy's regional dimension, to increase industry involvement in decisions on fisheries management and conservation and improve the dialogue between fishermen and scientists, to increase the integration of environmental concerns into fisheries management, to introduce clearer procedures for responding quickly to conservation emergencies, to confirm the 6 and 12-mile access restrictions on a permanent basis, to continue relative stability (including the Hague Preference) and retain the Shetland Box, to ensure greater effectiveness and consistency in control and enforcement of European Union requirements, while attempting to simplify the burden of control on fishermen, to improve the value for money of third country agreements and their coherence with development and environmental objectives and to promote the effective operation of Regional Fisheries Organizations.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst)
I must inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the leader of the Liberal Democrat party.
§ Mr. Morley
I am pleased that the House has an opportunity to debate the take-note motion on the European documents, particularly in the light of the circumstances of which we are all aware. I refer to the Commission proposals and to the very bad recommendations from the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea in relation to the state of North sea stocks and cod, in particular.
The debate was originally scheduled to give Members an opportunity to discuss the proposals for the reform of the common fisheries policy. That was important in that it would have allowed them to contribute their views. However, we cannot ignore the severe scientific advice on the state of stocks, and nothing could underline more clearly the need for the Council of Ministers to take brave and radical decisions on the future shape of the CFP. We are debating the issue at the right time, because the time for decision is the December meeting of the Council of Ministers. It will not be an 802 easy meeting—they never are—because the December Council will have to consider the annual quotas, the recovery plan and the finalisation of the CFP review.
§ Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
It is more urgent than the Minister suggests. Negotiations with Norway are taking place now and the results will set the framework for the meeting of Ministers. So it is crucial that we are aware of the arguments about the latest scientific information and the more subtle messages that come from it.
§ Mr. Morley
The hon. Gentleman is right. Although we can make progress on some stocks in the agreement between the European Union and Norway, as we will on pelagic stocks and saithe, the outcome of discussions on the North sea and the cod recovery programme will greatly influence decisions on other stocks.
§ David Burnside (South Antrim)
Can the Minister be more specific when he refers to the North sea? Does he mean just the North sea or all the seas around the British isles, including the Irish sea? He is well aware that conservation in the Irish sea is more advanced in respect of moratoriums during the spawning period. We hope that we can defend the North sea and the Irish sea, but can he be more precise?
§ Mr. Morley
I assure the hon. Gentleman that in my methodical way I am working my way around the seas around the coast. I have no intention of underestimating the possible impact on the Irish sea, the west coast of Scotland or the western approaches. I am the United Kingdom Minister and it is my responsibility to pay heed to the whole of the country and every region in it, which I intend to do. I will specifically address the Irish sea. I understand that particular issues are a priority for fishing industries in particular regions. I work closely with the devolved Administrations and listen carefully to their views so that I ensure that the concerns of their fishing industries are taken into account.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
I am glad that the Minister mentioned the science. The report by the Advisory Committee on Fishery Management shows that the haddock spawning stock biomass is the largest it has been since 1971; the saithe spawning stock biomass is the largest it has been since 1976; and the whiting spawning stock biomass is the largest it has been since 1991. Prawn stocks are also robust. Even the spawning stock biomass for cod, which is low, has increased 27 per cent. since last year. Given that, where did the recommendations for a total closure or draconian cuts come from, because they are in no way supported by the underlying scientific figures?
§ Mr. Morley
With respect, we need to interpret the science carefully, including those figures. Although some of them are encouraging, the underlying trends are not good for any stock, including haddock and whiting. It is true that there is a good year class in haddock. One of my objectives is to ensure that we manage that successfully so that we have a sustainable haddock fishery. I wish I could show the House a chart on the 803 spawning biomass of cod. Although we can argue about the details of fishery science, which is not a precise art, there is no question about the trends, and the trend for North sea cod is demonstrated by a line that plummets below its safe spawning biomass.
The situation is serious. Hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), have written to me about it and I propose to invite MPs, especially those from the North sea fishing ports, to attend a meeting to talk about the science in more detail. As the hon. Gentleman has raised the matter, I will try to ensure that one of our scientists attends the meeting to discuss those figures, their interpretation and exactly what they mean.
§ Andrew George (St. Ives)
No one questions the seriousness of the problem, but does the Minister accept that the science is largely based on estimates made earlier this year? It does not take proper account of the effect of the technical and other measures in place, some of which have been taken unilaterally by the industry. Those measures might lead to a significant perceptible improvement in the spawning stock biomass for cod in the North sea later this year.
§ Mr. Morley
Much has been done in this country. We have not been sitting around doing nothing when we have been considering the science. We identified that cod in particular was in some difficulties. That is why, since 2000, we have embarked on a number of recovery programmes, particularly in the Irish sea. The industry is to be congratulated on its involvement in the success of those programmes. We have a long way to go, however, in achieving recovery from a low base.
The hon. Gentleman is right about what we have done, and those actions must be taken into account—I shall say more about that in a moment.
§ Mr. David Drew (Stroud)
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way—he has been characteristically generous in doing so. He is aware that the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is looking into fishing at the moment. We have just come back from Brussels, where we received a gloomy message on stocks. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need an urgent scientific investigation into discard? We should look at the amount being thrown back, as that is completely unacceptable, not only in the operation of a modern industry, but in economic terms—we are almost paying people to cheat or not care about conservation. If my hon. Friend could initiate such an investigation, his epitaph would record that he had sorted the problem out.
§ Mr. Morley
I am always looking for a good epitaph. My hon. Friend is right—discard is a bane of fisheries management. We hear a lot about marketable fisheries thrown over the side of a boat because the quota has been exceeded. We do not hear very much, however, about high grading or undersized and unmarketable fish which are thrown over the side in large quantities in fisheries in all European Union states. We need to tackle that. Incidentally, one of the proposals concerns effort management on kilowatt days, which I know is 804 controversial in the fishing industry. However, I talk to it a lot about discards, and always make it clear that I am prepared to look at alternative management approaches to reducing them. The annual quota is one method, and has some benefits. However, the only alternative to a quota system that promotes discarding is a form of effort management along the lines of kilowatt days.
There are mixed views in the industry about that approach, which does not invite universal opposition—there are people who support it. At this stage, where we are negotiating with the Commission, looking at options and talking to the industry, I do not rule any approach out or in.
§ Mr. Salmond
The Minister said that we need to tackle discards. Surely, the scientific research from the research voyages conducted for Scottish fishermen and the Scottish Executive shows that we have tackled discards? The summary of the findings shows that there is a 70 per cent. escape of marketable whiting and a 50 per cent. escape of marketable haddock. When the fishermen went to Brussels on Monday, the Commission said that it had not even considered the scientific evidence for fishing with big mesh and square mesh panels. When will it do so, and when will that be introduced?
§ Mr. Morley
The hon. Gentleman's comment is true. I am not aware of any evidence in the figures or proposals that takes into account what we have done in this country. I repeat: we have not been sitting back waiting for the situation to get out of hand. There has been a reduction in effort in the UK fleet, and I will ensure that that is taken into account.
§ Mr. Morley
It is only courteous to give way to the hon. Gentleman, but may I first point out that this is a standard European debate? When I discussed the procedure for this debate, my office assured me that it would not be an hour of intensive questions, as it normally is. I do not duck that approach, but I want to develop my argument and give other hon. Members a chance to contribute.
§ Mr. Hayes
In that helpful spirit, I shall limit my interventions to one, as I shall have a chance to challenge the Minister's assertions later. He talked about discards and the industry's efforts. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) was right that those efforts have been considerable, but that is not universally so. I draw to the Minister's attention a producer in the south-west who was told by his French counterpart, "Of course we stick to the rules. We only sell officially those fish that can be sold within the rules—the others are sold unofficially." Fish that should have been discarded were being marketed. That is happening widely in other countries, even though their industry is playing it by the book.
§ Mr. Morley
This year we prosecuted 200 people in the UK who held similar views to the French, so let us not think that everything is perfect in our own country. I shall say a few words about that in a moment.
805 Let me focus on reform of the common fisheries policy. There is a link between CFP reform, recovery plans and quotas. We must discuss a number of aspects of the hake and cod recovery plan, which will be dealt with in the December Council. The background to all these issues, which we cannot ignore, is that fishing mortality is too high and is unsustainable. Stocks are diminishing, and although the instruments used under the CFP so far, such as total allowable catches and technical measures, have had some effect, they have failed to produce the reduction in fishing effort on depleted stocks that is fundamentally required. There are various reasons for that, not all to do with the CFP.
§ Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
When the Minister speaks of fish mortality, he must surely recognise that fish caught for human consumption are but a tiny portion of fish mortality. Compared with the effects of Danish industrial fishing, what power stations do to fisheries stocks, what seals take and what seabirds take, the amount fished for human consumption is very small. The Minister must ensure that we concentrate our efforts on producing a satisfactory basis for that.
§ Mr. Morley
Yes, but we must see the problem in perspective. There is natural mortality within the fish stock, and the biggest predator on fish is other fish. There are other impacts, which I do not discount, but we cannot get away from the fact that there is a natural cycle of mortality and that fishing at an unsustainable level is not natural and will lead to a terminal downward spiral of the stocks. We cannot allow that to happen.
§ Miss Anne Begg (Aberdeen, South)
I know that my hon. Friend appreciates that one of the problems of the CFP is that when stocks become unsustainable the suggestion is that one of the fisheries should be closed—in this case, the cod fishery. The processors in my constituency are afraid that if the cod fishing grounds are closed they will not have access to the haddock and whiting. They are terrified—that is genuine, and it happens every three years—that their whole business will be wiped out, because the skills will be lost if those fisheries are closed even for a year. People will go off to other jobs. It happened with the herring a couple of decades ago, and people are anxious that it should not happen this time. For them, the closing of the cod fishery would be the worst decision.
§ Mr. Morley
I understand my hon. Friend's point. She and colleagues from Aberdeen have arranged meetings with me about their processors. I understand their concerns and their vulnerability. That is an example of the balance that we must achieve in our approach to the problem. I recognise that onshore jobs will be affected by what happens to jobs at sea. I assure my hon. Friend that that is always at the back of my mind.
On the package of measures relating to the CFP, we strongly support many of the suggestions. There are measures covering the scrapping of vessels, and deals for the granting of subsidies. The Commission's CFP reform package also includes an action plan, which we endorse, to combat illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, a communication on integration of environmental protection requirements into the CFP, which we support, and action plans on aquaculture and on the management
806 of fisheries in the Mediterranean, which are based on very sensible ideas. The UK welcomes the fact that care for the environment and the adoption of the precautionary approach to stock management are watchwords of the Commission's whole CFP package.
On the basic package before us, one of the key elements that we strongly support is the abolition across the EU of subsidies for the construction and modernisation of fishing vessels. Given the problems that we face with regard to fish stocks, it makes no sense to subsidise the building of more efficient fishing vessels. We will strongly support the Commission on that. We also support a commitment to put in place recovery plans for fish stocks shown by science to be outside safe biological limits, as well as multi-annual management plans for other stocks. We think that that is the right way forward.
We support a commitment to establishing effort controls among the management options available in both recovery plans and multi-annual management plans. It is now difficult to believe that the sort of adjustments needed in fishing efforts can be achieved without some element of direct control. We will have to explore that issue.
We support the retention of relative stability. Indeed, that is one of our key negotiating positions. The retention of relative stability is absolutely essential as part of the reform of the common fisheries policy. It provides the basis for dividing fishing opportunities among member states, which is important if we are to avoid the development of extra pressure on already depleted stocks such as those in the North sea. Related to that issue is the question of Hague preference, which the Commission says will be taken into account in the future allocation of quotas. Again, we strongly welcome that. For us, it must simply mean that Hague preference is retained so that UK fishermen continue to benefit at times when quotas are low, with a recognition of the special circumstances of our fishing communities and the history of fishing in the UK and of our relationship with the European Union.
We also support retention of the current restrictions on access to member states' 12-mile limits, which the Commission proposed should be given a permanent basis. We will certainly support that proposal. We support renewal of the Shetland box, which we believe is justified on socio-economic and conservation grounds, and a stronger role for the Commission in monitoring member states' enforcement of the rules and promoting co-operation among member states on enforcement—another matter that has been raised in interventions.
One of our key objectives is putting in place regional advisory councils, drawing together for the first time all stakeholders in fisheries that are of interest to more than one member state. Our idea is that the councils would develop management measures and recommend them to the Commission and Council of Ministers for adoption. We believe that that innovation is vital if we are to improve the effectiveness of management measures. Fishermen in particular need to know that their views count—we need to assure them of that—and to have confidence in the measures that are adopted and some input into decisions about them.
807 We need in many cases to seek to shape those key features of the Commission's proposals to take account of the United Kingdom's various concerns and interests.
§ Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)
I accept what the Minister says about improving the industry's confidence in the procedures. Does he accept that he and his colleagues throughout the EU would go a long way towards increasing confidence in the industry if they allowed fishermen access to the negotiations?
§ Mr. Morley
I do not think that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that I should be accompanied in the Council of Ministers by all the fishermen of the United Kingdom and that all the fishermen of every other member state should also be present. Frankly, there would not be a room in Europe big enough to fit them all in. We must certainly involve the fishing industry as far as possible. That is why I have a meeting with all UK industry representatives before each Council meeting. I usually give them an update of what is going on in the middle of the proceedings and I meet them all again at the end to tell them the outcome. I assure him that we take very seriously the involvement of the industry and that I ensure that it has its say and is kept informed.
§ Sir Robert Smith
One of the frustrations at the Norway negotiations is that Norwegian fishing industry representatives are present with their Government's representatives, but no fishing representatives are allowed in from the EU side to help back up the negotiations from that perspective.
§ Mr. Morley
I can tell the hon. Gentleman that our fishing industry representatives are present at the EU-Norway talks. There may be a slightly different system in relation to Norway, but I am not aware that any special treatment is given to Norwegian fishermen's organisations in comparison with ours. None the less, I shall look into the matter for him.
I was very anxious to be brief, but I am willing to take interventions. I only hope that hon. Members do not hold that against me and that it will count as injury time to be added to my speech.
On the discussions that are currently under way, hon. Members will be aware that a block of member states has styled itself "friends of fisheries", although some say that with friends like that, fisheries are in more trouble than we thought. Those in the group have rather contrasting views. What unites them is their opposition to the abolition of construction grants, but there is a great deal on which they are divided. We are not alone in the Council of Ministers in arguing the UK view.
We have allies and we respect individual member states' positions. Although we may not agree on every aspect of the CFP with every member state, we have a qualified majority on a range of objectives that are vital to our country. On other matters, including building grants, we do not have a qualified majority. We have a blocking minority, but although I have blocking minorities on a variety of subjects, that applies to other countries and other issues.
808 It is in no country's interest to be deadlocked at the end of the year, and I am trying to secure an agreement on the reformed CFP by then. That will require negotiation with the presidency, the Council and other member states.
§ Mr. Morley
My hon. Friend is right. We are already co-operating with other member states. Spain is a good example because Spanish inspectors have visited our ports and our inspectors have been to Spanish ports. We have a good personal relationship with countries such as Spain. That country has made it clear that it does not object to the idea of a stronger role for the Commission in spot-checking and international enforcement that is applied equally to all member states. We would like that to happen, and I believe that we can develop the proposal.
As I said earlier, it is likely that we will decide on the total allowable catches and quotas for 2003 in terms of the cod and hake recovery plan at the December Council. We do not know what the Commission will propose, but the EU must respond to the severe scientific advice on cod and other stocks.
§ Mr. Morley
I want to make a little progress.
The advice is that we must introduce a moratorium on fishing for cod and stocks such as haddock and whiting, unless we can find ways in which to minimise by-catches and discards of cod. The implication is that the North sea will shut. Let me make it clear that I do not believe that that is a realistic option. However, we cannot simply oppose it. We must recognise that the Commissioner is responding to the science, and welcome his wish to identify alternative approaches. We should be in no doubt that such alternatives will have a serious effect on fishermen if they are to lead to any stock recovery, but there are options other than wholesale closure. That also applies to the Irish sea and the west coast of Scotland.
§ David Burnside
Will the Under-Secretary assure hon. Members that a moratorium is not being considered for the Irish sea because of the current state of stocks? He recently said:At worst the cod situation has bottomed out and at best there are signs of improvement.Will he confirm that the Irish sea is not under consideration for a moratorium?
§ Mr. Morley
I have that point in my notes. A great deal of work has been done in the Irish sea. Although we must be cautious about interpreting the science, it encourages me that there has been an upturn from the almost terminal decline of the breeding biomass of cod in the Irish sea. However, the upturn is modest, and we cannot 809 ignore that. One upturn in one year does not mean that we have turned the corner. We cannot be complacent about the Irish sea, but we are making progress.
§ Mrs. Joan Humble (Blackpool, North and Fleetwood)
I am pleased with my hon. Friend's statement. Will he reassure Fleetwood fishermen that the full impact of the Irish sea cod recovery programme will be taken into account? They have co-operated with the programme and worked hard within it, and they are more than happy to continue with it. They want it to be fair, and they want the full impact of the past three years to be taken into account so that there is no complete closure, and to ensure that they have a future.
§ Mr. Morley
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. She arranged a meeting between the Fleetwood fishermen and me at the recent Blackpool conference. That was constructive, and I acknowledge the work that they have done in co-operating with the recovery programmes in the Irish sea. I understand their point of view, and I can assure my hon. Friend that I will take it seriously in future negotiations.
§ Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)
Does my hon. Friend recognise that long-lining is a highly environmentally sustainable method of catching fish, particularly cod, because it does not result in young dead fish being hauled up in nets, only to be thrown back? Bearing that in mind, whatever has to be done to preserve, or to try to resurrect, cod stocks in the North sea, will he seek a future for long-lining? I do not believe that long-lining is the reason that cod stocks have been so badly damaged.
§ Mr. Morley
My hon. Friend has arranged meetings for me with his long-liners to discuss the issue. Certain methods of fishing are highly selective and have a very low impact, and I do not think it unreasonable that people using such methods should get some special consideration or treatment. That view may not be shared by other member states, but I am certainly prepared to make a case for it.
§ Andrew George
The Minister's remarks are welcome, but will he comment on the uneven focus that a number of the member states are giving to other fishery methods? The result is a much-needed focus on the white fish industry, but we are only now reaching the stage of planning that an impact study of the effects of industrial fishing will take place next year. We should be much further forward in dealing with that issue, as industrial fishing has the greatest impact of all on fishing, especially in the North sea.
§ Mr. Morley
I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman. Indeed, I do not disagree with many of the points that hon. Members have made, particularly on behalf of their constituencies, which can be quite severely affected by these changes. They are right to raise these issues; it is the responsible thing for constituency MPs to do, and taking their views into account is the responsible thing for me, as a UK Minister, to do.
We cannot, however, get away from the fact that we must take the scientific advice seriously. Without fish, there will not be a fishing industry. That is not to say that we should not challenge and examine the scientific 810 advice, and I give the House an assurance that that will be done. Attacking the science is not helpful, however, and one or two politicians—not, I hope, those in the Chamber today—have made unhelpful remarks about it. They think that they are doing the industry a service by rubbishing the science and pretending that there is not a problem—but we cannot do that; we have to recognise the reality.
We must identify an approach to achieving recovery that will impact even-handedly on all the fleets in the European Union, because I have no intention of allowing the UK to take all the impact of such measures. The approach must apply to all affected fisheries, and it must maximise the possibilities for fishing to continue. My ministerial colleagues from the devolved Administrations and I, and our officials, are talking urgently to the industry to identify the options.
§ Mr. Salmond
The Minister has said openly that he disagrees with the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea on industrial fishing. Does he appreciate how disillusioning it is when, after many years of effort by him and other Members, myself included, a fleet moves to using a big 100mm mesh with square mesh panels, only to find that no one else is doing so—not even south of Newcastle, as the Minister is well aware—and that that huge move, in environmental and conservation terms, is not even being taken into account when the recommendations are being made? Does he understand the frustration and anger that that causes among fishermen?
§ Mr. Morley
Of course I understand that, but it is important for those who represent the industry not to start panicking at this stage. There is a lot to do. The work that we have done on effort calculation-some of which is quite recent; we are still calculating the effort—has not been factored into the equations, but I assure the House that it will be. I will ensure that it is.
§ Ann Winterton (Congleton)
The Minister has played the environmental card throughout the debate, but is not there an inherent danger in that, as it masks the true agenda for integration and plays into the hands of the Commission? If agreement is not reached by the end of the year, the Commission can introduce six-month emergency measures—which can, I hasten to add, be continued under article 174 of the Maastricht treaty, which relates to the environment.
§ Mr. Morley
If there is no agreement in the Council, the Commission can introduce emergency measures that could include closing the North sea. For that reason, the alternative case that we make must be sensible and able to stand up to examination. I have a lot of respect and time for the hon. Lady, but I hear a hint of Eurosceptic conspiracy theory creeping in here. I believe that there is a broad-based approach in the House, across parties, to the points that I have outlined and to what we need to do. There is support for that.
§ Ann Winterton
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way again, because I asked a simple and 811 straightforward question. He answered the first part, about the six-month emergency powers, but will he now accept the fact that article 174 of the Maastricht treaty—
§ Ann Winterton
Right. I shall talk about that later, but now I am asking the Minister, who is in government and in power, whether those emergency powers can be continued under that treaty on environmental grounds.
§ Mr. Morley
In terms of how the powers apply to fisheries, I understand that they cannot. They are time-limited and temporary. However, I do not apologise for acknowledging environmental issues; they are very important. There is no contradiction between concern for the marine environment and concern for the fishing industry, because the fishermen themselves are concerned about the marine environment. They know that if we do not have strong environmental measures, we shall have no fishing industry. I am perhaps unique among European fisheries Ministers in that I am both an Environment Minister and a fisheries Minister. I find that a strength in my approach and my negotiations, not a weakness.
The hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton) brings me on to other points. On the environment, for example, I am surprised by the Liberal Democrat amendment, because it is weaker than the Government motion. We make it very clear from the beginning of our motion that we recognise the importance of the environment, but there is no such acknowledgement in the Liberal Democrat amendment. I am sure that I shall not disagree with a lot of what the Liberal Democrats say in the debate, but if they want a strong, credible green policy to defend our fishing industry, they should vote with us tonight. I make that minor point to them now.
I am sure that we shall hear about national control from the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), but I hope that he can define better than his predecessors exactly what that means. We have national control. I say to him that we face an important issue and a serious situation for fishing stocks. It is important to achieve some consensus here, and ensure that the Conservative party is not dictated to or distracted by its Eurosceptic fringe. That was a real problem for the previous Government and it had far-reaching consequences—one of which, incidentally, is that my Government have been taken to the European Court for fisheries enforcement infractions dating back 11 years from 1996.
Responsibility for that court case does not lie with Conservative Ministers. I was an Opposition spokesman at that time, so I know that they were doing their best to get to grips with the enforcement problems affecting our own fleet, but the climate created for them 812 by a Eurosceptic rump dictating to the Government made it impossible to introduce such measures. As a result, when I became Minister in 1997, black fish landings were rife in this country. I do not dispute criticism of the common fisheries policy, which is often justified, but the fishing industry must take some responsibility for infringements in the past. Not only is such action damaging; it undermines the science when scientists suspect that declarations are not accurate. That helps no one. It does not help the industry, it does not help the science and it does not help me to make decisions.
§ Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland)
Should we not now be getting scientists on to commercial fishing boats rather than using gear that is 20 years out of date and has no credibility in the industry?
§ Mr. Morley
That is a common misapprehension. Research vessels use the same gear, because they are carrying out constant effort sampling. They need to use the same gear because they are measuring the same effort over a long period. I agree, however, that it is important to establish a close relationship between scientists and the industry. That is why we have invited industry leaders on to our research vessels, and why we charter commercial fishing vessels as part of our studies, with our scientists on board. In fact, I believe that some vessels from the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) were chartered recently for use in the Irish sea.
It is important not to obscure a critical fisheries management issue with Euroscepticism. I was appalled to read some comments by Conservative MEPs who said that the proposed closure of the North sea was part of a great, secret Euro-plot to divide the EU into monopolies so that France would dominate farming, Germany would dominate heavy industry and manufacturing, Belgium would become the centre for "centralised bureaucracy" that does not sound a very good deal to me—and Spain would dominate fishing. Apparently, the whole idea of closing down the North sea is to allow in the Spanish. Those are just silly childish conspiracy theories. The fishing industry deserves better.
The fixation of the Scottish National party on who goes to the Council and who speaks there is not helpful either; I say that in the most gentle way. Colleagues from the devolved Administrations probably have more access to and involvement in fisheries policy in DEFRA than Scottish Office Ministers ever did. I speak as one who was a MAFF Minister before devolution and has been a DEFRA Minister since. I will ensure that the devolved Administrations are involved in every aspect of decision making, and that their voice, as well as that of the Scottish Office—my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland is here to show her support and commitment—is heard clearly and strongly, expressing their interests as part of a United Kingdom approach.
§ Mr. Salmond
How does the Minister explain a letter I have received from the general secretariat of the 813 European Fisheries Council? It states that the name of the Scottish Fisheries Minister, Ross Finnie, appeared on one list of participants, but did not appear on the list for a range of other Council meetings. Although the Minister had attended those meetings, his name did not appear. What is the status of the Scottish Fisheries Minister at such meetings? There seems to be some confusion.
§ Mr. Morley
There is no confusion. It is the Council's practice simply to record the name of the lead Minister of the delegation.
Under the terms of the devolution settlement, this is indisputably a reserved matter for the Westminster Parliament. I am the lead Minister from the lead Department, but the Ministers from the devolved Administrations are part of the process at every stage and at every level. They are consulted closely. They attend our ministerial meetings in the Department, they attend all our pre-Council briefings, they attend the Council with me, and they speak at the Council supporting the UK line—while, of course, defending their own regional priorities. That is the strength of our approach; it is not a weakness.
§ Mr. Foulkes
I urge my hon. Friend to ignore the nitpicking of the SNP—and, I must confess, of the Liberal Democrats. It is a question not of who leads the delegation, but of the fact that this would forward powerfully and effectively the voice of the United Kingdom Government and of the devolved Administration. Knowing the people involved, I can say that there is no one better or more capable of putting forward that view effectively than my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. Morley
I was actually trying to make a point to unite the House—[Laughter]. I may have gone a bit astray.
My point was that all Members participating in this debate have legitimate constituency concerns, and I take such contributions seriously—from whichever side of the House they come. I am simply saying that there has been some nonsense surrounding this issue. It is a serious one, so let us concentrate on the threats that the industry faces and address them in a responsible way.
We will carefully examine the science. I have spoken to the Executive and to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, and I will give a commitment that we will not blindly sign up to any proposal until we have properly evaluated it, looked at its implications, and considered whether or not it is justified. I also give an undertaking that we will recognise the impact on the fishing fleet—we do not ignore that—in all parts of the country. Northern Ireland's priority in respect of nephrops is very important, and I think that we can address that, along with matters relating to the North sea and the west coast.
We will of course strongly challenge practices such as industrial fishing. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan says that I am denying the science, but I am not. I have looked very carefully at it, and we are participating in scientific studies on industrial fishing. However, there is also a precautionary principle. When it comes to a choice between industrial fishing and 814 fishing for human consumption, the latter must take priority on all occasions. An element of doubt guides many of the commission's proposals in terms of a precautionary approach, and the industrial fleets must be part of that approach. They cannot be exempted from it, and we will be making that point.
We will also look carefully at the proposals for the west coast and the Irish sea. At the moment, I am not happy about the idea that the Commission is simply taking some of the scientific analysis on the North sea and applying the methodology to the Irish sea. That position is not necessarily justified, and I can assure hon. Members that we will consider our approach to the issue closely. The fact is that, whatever we do, I cannot guarantee that there will be no impact on fishing ports and fishing fleets. If there is such an impact, we will of course examine what help we can give through the available structures and structural funds.
§ David Burnside
I find it hard to talk about "decommissioning" without thinking about the other form of it. One of the greatest threats is the permanency of the decommissioning of fishing vegetables—[Laughter.] I meant to say fishing vessels. Is there a form of subsidy similar to the set-aside subsidy that applies to agricultural land? There are strong feelings about that subsidy, but it does keep land in operation, and in the ownership of farms. The issue is keeping vessels in existence, and in the ownership of local fishermen and fishing families who have been involved in the industry for a long time, without permanently ending the use of such vessels.
§ Mr. Morley
I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, which he has made very articulately before. I realise that decommissioning is double-edged, in that it permanently takes away capacity. The advantage is that other fishing vessels become more viable, and I do not rule out a possible role for decommissioning as part of an overall package. I shall of course think about the issue, and discuss whether decommissioning is appropriate.
Provision is made under EU rules for time-limited—in other words, not very long-tie—up support. Unfortunately, the problems that we face are not short-term. I do not want to mislead the House, or to duck the issue: turning some of these stocks round will take a number of years. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but decommissioning is one of a number of options, although I stress that it is not the only one. I understand the long-term impact that it has on fishing ports, and that will influence the decisions that I take.
In conclusion, I can promise that we will examine the science carefully. We have done that already in connection with the North sea nephrops fishery, on which I see no justification for restrictions. The Government are clear that that fishery is very important to both Scotland and England.
We will expect any recovery measure to apply to all nations with access to a particular fishery. We will not accept severe restrictions if other nations do not take their share of the responsibility. We will continue to engage with the industry and with colleagues in the devolved Administrations to find the best way forward. We will vigorously defend our national interest with all 815 the facilities at our disposal, and we will adopt a partnership approach with colleagues in the Scottish Executive, the Scottish Office, Northern Ireland and Wales.
We are committed to the sustainable management of our seas. We will act responsibly in respect of the science, but we will also defend our industry's interests robustly. It has a proud record, plays an important role and serves vital regional interests
§ 2.6 pm
§ Mr. John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings)
At the outset, let me assure the House that I have no doubt about the Minister's integrity or knowledge of the subject. He has done this job for a long time, and taken part in many debates in the House. His breadth of knowledge and understanding are remarkable. However, the British fishing industry feels betrayed—by the EU, the common fisheries policy and, most dishonourably of all, by those in this Parliament who have persistently advocated and pursued a policy that has resulted in the dramatic decline of our once-proud fishing fleet and in the consequent damage to communities where fishing is central to the culture and the economy.
I refer to those communities' culture because fishing is not just a job. It is a way of life, and is usually rooted in families that have been involved in the industry for generations. It is not something that people can lightly give up to pursue another career.
Many families and communities now face the betrayal that may be the final chapter in this tragic tale. The industry has declined dramatically. For example, the east coast of England once boasted many important fishing ports, but now it is almost bare of this great industry. Yesterday, I met fishermen from the east coast who struggle to continue with their way of life. Their confidence has been eroded and their hopes dashed. We should not be surprised at their solemnity, given the tiny numbers of boats that now set to sea from those once-proud ports. My hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mr. Simmonds), such a champion of the Boston fishermen, tells me that about 20 boats now work out of that port. About 10 boats work from Grimsby, and the same number from Whitby. Scarborough has about four working boats, and Bridlington and Hartlepool a couple each. The Minister must concede that those numbers are as shameful as they are pitiful. However, those ports are in a better state than Lowestoft. Who could have believed a decade—let alone 20 years—ago that Lowestoft would have no fishing industry?
§ Mr. Blizzard
When Opposition Members get put on their Front Bench, they do not think that they will be there long, so they make rash statements. Lowestoft has an inshore fleet comprising 18 vessels, and there are nine 816 beam trawlers that stop fishing in the summer. The town also retains its fish market. If the hon. Gentleman thinks that he can talk down Lowestoft fish market and finish it off, he will have the fish merchants down on him.
§ Mr. Hayes
That is a pretty low intervention, from an hon. Gentleman for whom I have a great deal of respect—although he is not as big as he once was, as we were discussing just the other day. He knows what I meant when I said that the industry had declined dramatically in Lowestoft to the point of extinction. Of course there is an inshore fleet and a fish market in Lowestoft. There is still a thriving fish industry in Grimsby as well, but most of the product that it uses is imported. It is not caught in or anywhere near Grimsby. That is what shocks people. I acknowledge that Lowestoft is not dead in that respect, but the hon. Gentleman, who is a decent and honourable representative of that part of the world, will be as sad as I am that the fishing that it once enjoyed and for which it was famed came to an end just a few months ago.
The Minister tells us that the British fleet in England and Scotland is still unsustainable, despite the reductions. He did not give a very good answer to the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), who said that the decline in fish stocks is at least as much to do with the other threats to fish such as toxins and industrial fishing as with fishing for human consumption. The change in climate, for example, has driven cod further north into the North sea. The Minister was aware of those arguments but dismissed the intervention that pointed out the facts. The Minister has come to the view that the British fishing industry, even in its current form, is, in his words, unsustainable.
The decline in the fishing industry has cut by a third the number of boats that go out from British ports, but the amount of fish caught has fallen by only about 10 per cent. The Minister will say that that is the whole problem. However, he does not acknowledge that the reason for that equation is that our fish stocks continue to be fished by many other nations using methods that we regard as unacceptable. I will talk later in more detail about industrial fishing. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) made a telling intervention about it today, as he did a few days ago. We have yet to have a satisfactory answer. I do not say that the Minister does not have a noble record on this. I have had much pleasure over the last few weeks reading his speeches over many years—they are most entertaining and have been my bedtime reading. He has always been against industrial fishing but his assurances today will come as cold comfort to an industry that sees it perpetuated, particularly by Denmark and Norway.
§ Mr. Morley
I am proud to have negotiated with Denmark, in a very friendly way, a three-year closure off Scotland on Wee Bankie. It comes to an end this year. I welcome the opportunity to assure the House that it is my intention to continue that closed area because I think that our justification for the original closure still stands.
§ Mr. Hayes
I am grateful for that assurance but the Minister knows that industrial fishing does not occur only off the coast of Scotland. He would not want to deceive the House in any way, shape or form and he will 817 acknowledge that industrial fishing is a massive problem in waters around the United Kingdom, particularly the North sea, and that the effect has been devastating.
This further plague of reductions is on a baseline already so eroded that, in many cases, it will be the end of the deep-sea fishing industry from ports up and down the country. This is decommissioning by bankruptcy.
§ Mr. Mark Simmonds (Boston and Skegness)
Does my hon. Friend think that, if a tie-up agreement could be negotiated, other EU countries would stick to it?
§ Mr. Hayes
The Minister has personal experience of this, and I am grateful to my hon. Friend for drawing it to the House's attention. There was a tie-up agreement off the north-west coast in the early part of 2000—the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) will speak about this with some authority—and the Fleetwood fishermen, being decent and law-abiding folk, abided by it. I was speaking to them only the day before yesterday. Large Dutch and Belgian boats exploited those waters, to the Minister's enormous embarrassment, and he had to trade off a share of our quota in the North sea to bribe them out of the place.
§ Mr. Hayes
That is not what the Fleetwood fishermen say. I hope that you will forgive me, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if I give rather more credence to what they say on this occasion. I am sure that the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood joins me in my high regard for those hard-working fishermen.
§ Mrs. Humble
Tempted as I am, I must intervene. The fishermen of Fleetwood saw the relevance and importance of the cod recovery programme, so they actively engaged in the debate. However, in the first year of the programme, they had concerns about which parts of the Irish sea were closed down. My hon. Friend the Minister met a delegation of fishermen in London and listened to what they had to say. That early closure was varied to take the views of the Fleetwood fishermen into account. I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that the way forward is to listen to fishermen's expertise and their knowledge of their own areas.
§ Mr. Hayes
The hon. Lady makes a separate but equally valuable point. Her point is different from that of my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness. She reminds the House that, when the tie-up agreement was enforced, the fishermen became aware that it was at the wrong time and in the wrong place because the cod had already spawned and moved on. The fishermen knew that before the scientists and drew it to the attention of the hon. Lady, the Minister and the scientists. To his credit, the Minister took note. That leads us to conclude that the fishermen must be involved in all these exercises from the beginning. There must be a partnership between scientists and fishermen. Too often, fishermen have been left out until it becomes clear 818 that they know a great deal about fish stocks and the industry. I should have thought that that was obvious, and I am sure that the hon. Lady agrees.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The hon. Gentleman makes a compelling argument in favour of regional management. Can I take it that he will join us in the Lobby tonight to support the Liberal Democrat amendment?
§ Mr. Hayes
The hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George) knows what I mean. I shall talk later about our history together in fishing. He propped me up on a boat in the middle of the ocean when I was about to fall down. It could have caused a by-election, but he saved not only me but the people of South Holland and The Deepings from that experience. However, the point of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) deserves serious treatment, and I will address it later.
As well as meeting fishermen from Fleetwood and the east coast, I have also had the privilege, due to the generosity of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, of meeting a group of Scottish fishermen's wives. Tragically, they tell a similar sorry tale. Let us look at the effect of a dramatic reduction in white fish takes in Scotland. Let us consider the dependence of the east coast of Scotland on fishing and the proportion of people in the local economy engaged and employed in the industry. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan has the chart, and I am familiar with it. Fishing is responsible for anything between 20 and 60 per cent. of the employment in some of those communities, either directly or indirectly. Then there is the knock-on effect on the local economy and communities. Imagine the effect on the retail or service sector if we dramatically reduce the fishing income to those communities. I was genuinely moved by those ladies and I will not let them down.
It is predicted that about 30,000 jobs will be at risk in that part of Scotland, and some 175 boats have already gone. How can we talk about a baseline? How can we talk about the contribution that we have already made or, as the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood pointed out, the commitment that fishermen have already made to this programme of balance, conservation and restructuring?
All those things are being done in the name of conservation, as we heard from the Minister again today. He is as consistent on that subject as he is on industrial fishing. In 2001, he said:The CFP is not a great conspiracy …Its overwhelming priority is conservation." —[Official Report, Westminster Hall, 20 March 2001; Vol. 365, c. 51WH]By that measure, the common fisheries policy is palpably a complete and utter failure. Even if we could forget what it has done to the fishing industry and to the morale of those communities, we have only to think 819 about what it has done to fish. Uniquely, the policy has damaged both fish and the people who catch them. There is something Orwellian about that.
§ Mr. Clifton-Brown
I am grateful to my hon. Friend, even for that accolade.
Is not it high time that we examined the CFP? It has been a disaster in every respect: for conservation, for employment in terms of the number of British boats and in respect of discards—the wasted fish that have to be put back. The Government should grasp the nettle, tear up the CFP and negotiate an entirely new fisheries policy with our partners.
§ Mr. Hayes
That lies at the nub of the problem. The House will admire my hon. Friend's stout defence of Cotswold fishermen. No one engaged in the fishing industry could fail to value his contribution. He is right: the CFP is at the centre of the problem.
However, there is a difference between Conservative Members, Labour Members, Liberal Democrat Members and minor party Members, although I share many of the concerns of the Liberal Democrats on this subject. The Liberal Democrats believe—we have yet to hear from the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan—that the CFP can be shoehorned, twisted or amended to meet the challenges and the crisis. We have been told that time and again for 20 years. We have been told that with honour and decency—the Minister does not lack decency—but we no longer believe it and nor do the fishermen. Fishermen have been divided on the matter, but their position is hardening against the CFP because they can no longer believe that it can be adapted to meet their needs.
§ Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central)
The hon. Gentleman ignores the fact that for 15 of the 20 years he mentioned we had a Conservative Government. I realise that he is relatively new to his Front-Bench post, but he may recall that there were regular debates on fisheries during the last Parliament when some of the key points related to why the Conservative Government signed up to the CFP in 1972. They did not see the policy as important so they threw it away.
§ Mr. Hayes
I do not want to be seduced by the hon. Gentleman into discussion of the murky business of how the CFP began when we entered the EU, but in this debate I shall neither defend nor attack previous Governments for their role in those matters, as that is not relevant to us at present. We have a Government who have to deal with the CFP and they have been in power for many years. The Minister has been in his post man and boy. We have to deal with the current situation. That is the imperative.
The CFP has been a disaster for conservation and for the fishing industry. I do not want to cast too many doubts on science. There is always a tension between the 820 fishing industry and science, as I remember from when we examined these matters in the Select Committee and visited the fishing industry in this country and abroad. Indeed, I remember my dalliance in Galicia with the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), when we visited a fish market in northern Spain looking for small fish because we wanted to uncover some dreadful scandal. In my broken Spanish, I asked for the small fish and we were directed to another shed. We got quite excited. His camera was at the ready—as it always is—and we ended up looking at sardines. Our plot came to nothing. There is always a tension between the science and the fishermen.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)
To complete the story, the hon. Gentleman should have added that I photographed some minute monkfish and other small fish that should never have been landed.
§ Mr. Hayes
The hon. Gentleman makes an intelligent and serious point on the back of my anecdote. It cannot be emphasised too often that small fish are landed and sold. We know that there is a taste for small fish in southern Europe so there is a demand and a market for them. The idea that "black" fish are not marketed throughout Europe is nonsense, as he made clear.
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) made an interesting and valuable point during Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Question Time. He said that enthusiasm for the regulatory regime to control such fishing, and the willingness of inspectors to act, varies across the countries of Europe. In Peterhead, there are more people checking up on the fishing industry than there are policemen. There are more inspectors monitoring everything that our fishermen do than any other officials. Is that true in the fishing ports of southern Europe? I suspect not. That is what the hon. Gentleman was alluding to when he spoke earlier.
§ Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North)
I agree about the importance of stopping black fishing and clamping down on it in foreign ports, but we should also acknowledge that we should check on it in our country, although that may not be popular. We constantly hear stories about it both from the catching and the processing sides. It is vital that we have the strictest possible standards and the greatest possible compliance and co-operation in our industry, because we are in crisis.
§ Mr. Hayes
Typically, the hon. Gentleman makes a fair point. Of course, we have to be diligent and standards must be high. Inspection must be carried out openly, properly and fairly. No one would deny that. I was picking up on an earlier point: I am not confident that standards are universally applied with the same vigour, openness and straightforwardness as the hon. Gentleman advocates.
The arguments about science, are not about the analysis of declining white fish stocks, as I think we would all acknowledge. That decline is taking place in Norway and in other countries; even as far away as Canada there is a problem with cod stocks. The argument is about what the scientists are not taking into account: the measures that have already been taken. 821 The Minister generously acknowledged that. However, until those things are taken into account, we cannot come to a balanced view about the likely factual and statistical outcome of the measures that are likely to implemented. Scientific analysis cannot be partial; it must be holistic and comprehensive or the industry is bound to question it. Indeed, it is bound to be invalid.
There has been no proper scientific analysis of the real effects of industrial fishing. Canada and Norway have reduced their cod quotas due to the problems with white fish. Incidentally, haddock quotas in Norway have risen by more than 80 per cent. during the past year. That would be a dream for our fishermen.
Until we have comprehensive, holistic, wide-ranging and believable science, which has integrity and can be trusted by the House and people involved in the industry, there will always be a tendency to distrust what we are being told. I refer to tension, and we must not increase that tension by producing a partial picture. We have been given no projection, no plan and no notional figures concerning the effect of further restrictions or decommissioning. The Minister said that the process will take a long time, but I want to see notional figures and good arguments based on comprehensive science.
Our fleet is at breaking point because it can do only so much restructuring—once the fleet has gone, that is it. One cannot restructure nothing. We know that there are exceptional numbers of codlings and young haddock in the North sea because this has been an unusual year, as the Minister will know. If we get rid of our fleet, it will not be able to take advantage of those fishing grounds when young fish grow to maturity and can be harvested.
In the meantime—I make no apology for returning to this issue—Norwegian and, in particular, Danish industrial fleets continue unabated to catch sandeels for fish food. It takes about 8lbs of wild fish to produce 1 lb of farmed salmon. If we do not tackle industrial fishing, with its million tonne quota, these proposals will just be for show. Industrial fishing destroys the food source of mature fish and, via the bycatch of between 50,000 and 100,000 tonnes of cod and other species, it destroys mature and juvenile fish. As we know, there is anecdotal evidence suggesting that the latter are not always discarded. Without measures to curb that shameful situation, we cannot in all conscience expect our fishing industry to commit itself once again to changes recommended by Europe and, today, by the House. We want a degree of balance and fairness in our handling of this matter, and industrial fishing is neither balanced nor fair.
One of the deepest ironies is that because of the greater numbers of sandeels in Norwegian waters, cod stocks are migrating towards that area so that they can feed more easily. Are we really saying that we will stop British fishermen using their 120 mm nets while industrial fishermen continue to use their 16 mm or even 8 mm nets? We cannot do so with any pride or decency.
I am now going indulge in the "irrational Euroscepticism" suggested by the Minister because I like to live up to my stereotype. I do not want to disappoint him, and I would not want anybody to say that I was not on top form. I shall set the matter in context. The European proposals are not principally about conservation, although there is concern about that. They are not even about fishing at all; they are 822 about European integration and the subordination of our national interests to central direction. Competency for fishing lies within the Commission, and the proposals come not from our Ministers or the Government but from EU Commissioners through treaty obligations about which the Minister has little to say because he has little control over them. I do not blame the Minister for that because it is a simple fact of life.
The Prime Minister must take the lead on this. He must face up to our European partners. We are sending our second XI to the current fishing negotiations. The matter must be elevated. We should say that fishing matters. The Prime Minister should take it up personally and raise it in the corridors of power in Europe. Ultimately, we must have the courage to take control of these matters, but not through a regional or zonal system. That would simply create many common fishing policies. We would have a multiplicity of centrally directed, bureaucratic and insensitive policies
§ Lawrie Quinn(Scarborough and Whitby) rose—
§ Mr. Hayes
I will not give way because I want to make progress and the Minister is chivvying me to conclude my remarks. He does not like it and he is looking up at the clock, thinking, "How long is this going to go on? I can't take much more of this pain and punishment." I do not want it said that I will be the man to inflict that pain on him. I will give way to the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith) after I have given way to the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn), who made such an important point about regulations
§ Lawrie Quinn
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his comments. The name of the place that I represent is Whitby, not Whitney.
§ Lawrie Quinn
There seems to be a problem of geography, but never mind. The hon. Gentleman is welcome to come to Whitby whenever he likes.
The hon. Gentleman gave a compelling diagnosis of the problems in the industry. I am sure that many people in the ports that I represent will have found his comments sensible, but they will be waiting for answers. Everyone in the House would like him to provide the answers, rather than going down the well trodden route taken by previous Conservative spokesmen and spouting Eurosceptical dogma.
§ Sir Robert Smith
I am concerned that the hon. Gentleman dismisses regional management too quickly when many in the industry view it as crucial. Fish do not respect national boundaries, and it is far more important to manage what happens within the regional fishing area, such as the North sea. If we did not have management across the whole of the North sea, over-fishing on one side would have meant recovery programmes on the other side failing completely. The industry has been demanding regional management, so that those who are affected by the decisions have a say in the results.
§ Mr. Hayes
The industry would have said that once. When, as a member of the Select Committee, I looked at these matters in great detail, that view was expressed by some in the industry. However, there was division and some believed in national control. Now the industry has changed its view because it is increasingly coming to believe that we can no longer pretend that the common fishery can be made to work. It is rotten at its very core.
The hon. Gentleman made sound points about local sensitivity and about involving the industry through proper collaboration and consultation. There is also a need for proper co-operation between nations. The Minister wrote to me in October, saying, sensibly, of course we need "international agreement and cooperation." However, he said in the same paragraph:A common approach is essential to tackle European fisheries under the auspices of the common fisheries policy.That is the error—we can have international agreement and co-operation, which is an inevitable part of dealing with fishing because, as the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine rightly says, fish know no boundaries. However, the accountability for that, and the management of it, should be vested in nation states. The Minister looks surprised, but he knows that that is precisely what happens in some of the most successful fishing nations in the world, including New Zealand, Namibia, Iceland and Norway.
§ Mr. Morley
The hon. Gentleman is, to use a fishing phrase, going a bit adrift. Theoretically, of course, a number of fisheries nations can pursue different policies, but we share the North sea and the English channel. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that we draw a line down the middle and have one catch on one side of the line and a different catch on the other? Should we have different mesh sizes on each side of the line? That is not a conservation policy; it is anarchy. No matter what terms the hon. Gentleman uses, there has to be a common framework in European waters.
§ Mr. Hayes
The hon. Gentleman is being a little disingenuous because he knows very well that the countries with governance of their own waters that I have mentioned—I could have listed many others—have agreements of the type that he describes. He knows very well that the European Union has an agreement with Norway; he was talking about negotiating such an 824 agreement only a few moments ago, when he was challenged on why he will not let the fishermen around the table given that Norway is very happy to do so. Of course there are agreements on the very subjects that he describes, but the fact is that the governance and accountability for the policies that a nation develops about its fishing industry should rest where sovereignty rests—and sovereignty should rest in the House.
I feel sorry for the Minister because with all his knowledge—I have acknowledged his understanding of such matters—and all his good intentions, the truth is that he cannot do many of the things that he would like to do. He is stuck in an amalgam, in which people always want to find some shoddy compromise, rather than to pursue the genuine interests of the nations of Europe
§ Mr. Hayes
I will let the hon. Gentleman intervene again, so long as he does not talk about Captain Cook.
I refer not only to the interests of Britain because the Minister will know that the common fisheries policy has been a disaster not just for Britain, but for many European countries. I would make this argument if I were a representative of several other countries of Europe. For example, the hon. Gentleman will know that the EU has had to buy African fishing rights. There are very real concerns about the cost and effect of that on those African nations. Not only have they suffered from deaths caused by the very large boats using their waters, but their own fishing industries have been damaged economically, and their local communities have been damaged by those activities. That has happened in a desperate effort to prop up the Spanish industry, so the Spanish industry, which has also declined, has suffered from the common fisheries policy. This is not a narrow or xenophobic point because I am not a narrow or xenophobic person.
§ Lawrie Quinn
I am most grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way for a second time. He has demonstrated his prowess as a student of history and geography this afternoon. My hon. Friend the Minister asked him about a putting a north-south line down the centre of the North sea, but where would the hon. Gentleman put a line between the Scottish and English fisheries? The right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) is here, and I am sure that he would be very interested to hear the hon. Gentleman's answer to that question.
§ Mr. Hayes
Well, many of the issues that we are debating today are common to the industries of Scotland and England. We talk about conservation, aid to the communities, the effect of the changes and the impact of regulation and inspection, but there is not much difference between the impressions of English fishermen and those of Scottish fishermen.
§ Mr. Hayes
Before I give way to the hon. Gentleman-I do not want him to breach the unanimity 825 that I hope to achieve as I approach the last part of my speech—I wish to tell the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby, who raises the issue of my knowledge of geography and history, that he will be sorry to know, given my earlier remark that I am trained to teach history, whereas I have only an O-level in geography. I plead guilty to the point about geography, but not to that about history.
§ Mr. Salmond
I know that the hon. Gentleman has been reading up, but he should be aware that the Conservative party and the Labour party combined in 1999 to transfer 40,000 square miles of Scottish waters to English jurisdiction, and I can tell him that that was opposed by every Scottish fisherman; there was no division on that.
§ Mr. Simmonds
May I assure my hon. Friend that the fishermen in Boston are against regional control—the regionalism that the Liberal Democrats purport to support—and very much for national sovereignty in fishing policy.
§ Mr. Hayes
I am delighted to hear that. As I said earlier, my hon. Friend is known as a doughty champion of the fishermen of Boston—they are largely cockle fishermen—and he will know that, in particular, they face environmental problems in the Wash and that those stocks have been affected by toxins and climatic change. He has taken up those matters with the vigour for which he has already become renowned since being elected.
We should follow the example of those countries that have had the courage to take control of their own fisheries policies. Although I acknowledge the fact that the Liberal Democrat amendment has merit, especially in its analysis of the problem and in emphasising many of the current problems that we face, I have to say that I do not buy the solution. The hon. Member for St. Ives has a deep knowledge of and a real commitment to fishing, but I suspect that the Liberal Democrats' fisheries policy is driven more by their overall policy on European federalism than by the interests of the fishermen.
In my judgment, as the debate becomes louder and more widely heard in the next few weeks and months, fishermen will conclude that the only way that we can really offer them a glimmer of hope is by having the courage to take control, rather than having to get involved in these rather grubby deals that are done behind the scenes in smoke-filled rooms without the fishermen being present, as we have already heard. [Interruption.]
Let me just deal with this point once and for all. If the Prime Minister was really concerned and fishing were a high priority for the Government and a dominant issue 826 in European discussions, the Liberal Democrats' argument might hold some water, because the Prime Minister could then negotiate the sort of zone or regional system that they favour, but the truth is that none of that is so. Fishing will be abandoned; it will be traded off and given away as part of some bigger deal in the negotiations. That is the truth of the matter, and no one can dutifully and honestly advocate the reform of the common fisheries policy because it will not be made a priority or made to fit the needs of the British industry, nor those of several other European industries
§ Mr. Hayes
I must make more progress. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concede that I have been generous in giving way.
Of course the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan is a doughty champion of fishing interests in Scotland, but unlike the Liberal Democrats, who at least recommend some solutions to the problems of regional control, he identified the problems very cogently in his amendment but offers no solution. I hope that he will support me in saying that the United Kingdom should take control of such matters, but I rather doubt it.
I want to say a word about relative stability. The Government argue in their motion for the continuation of relative stability, which is at the heart of their approach. The Minister has previously argued many times that we are protected by that principle, but how can we share out EU resources among EU people and maintain the same size of United Kingdom fishing fleet? Of course the answer is that that cannot be done. Britain's share can only decrease, so we may say that too many British fishermen catching the for ever shrinking share of resources is the result of relative stability. The proposed solution will eliminate British fishermen, so fishermen ask: why just ban catching cod, haddock and whiting, which happen to be the fish that we catch? Is it solely because of the conservation issues? Fishermen are understandably sceptical—I say no more than that—about that kind of policy.
I have a number of questions for the Minister. Is it not the case that, in the past 20 years, there has been no serious effort to conserve fish stocks and that the Commission's only solution has been to reduce quotas and accelerate decommissioning, with the result that there has been the increase in discards, as he and the House know?
Industrial fishing has destroyed the food chain, so why has that been allowed to continue for so long? It is a scandal that our countrymen will be stopped from fishing with the large-mesh nets that I have mentioned, while allowing industrial fishing to continue to use 16 mm and smaller nets.
Will the Minister protect access to the deep-sea fisheries westward of the British Isles—an important new area for many Scots fishermen, where they have made significant inroads? I am afraid that they will suffer drastically under the new proposals, and we should have a commitment from the Minister on those matters.
Is it not true that the EU policy, which has destroyed the food source and causes adult fish to be dumped and baby fish to be sold, does not give nature much of a 827 helping hand? Can we have a guarantee that enforcement— the issue raised by the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby— will not be a uniquely British phenomenon, and that compliance and serious commitment will be evident across the European Union?
In all of this, I am afraid that I have little faith in the Prime Minister. I read in The Times today that whereas most of us have pictures on our desk of our wife, our baby, our father or the Duke of Wellington, he has a picture of President Chirac! That is why I have little faith in the Prime Minister— he is not committed to British fishing and the British interest. He is not committed to the nation in this respect: he will sell us out in Europe, as was illustrated by his dismissive answer to a perfectly fair question that was put to him yesterday. He is preparing the industry for its demise. That is the truth of the matter.
We must not allow our fishing industry to be traded off in some disreputable EU deal. The Prime Minister could have said yesterday that aid, assistance and financial support for the communities of Britain that rely on fishing must be at least equivalent to those enjoyed by other countries. He could have said that, during any tie-up, all foreign boats must be made to honour any restrictions. He could have said that industrial fishing, which causes immense damage to the food chain and therefore to the level of food stocks for white fish, must be stopped. He could have said that conservation measures should be developed in partnership with the industry. He could have said that third country agreements must be urgently reviewed with the aim of a dramatic reduction in cost and in the damage that they do to the other countries. He could have said that we will defend our industry openly, honestly and purposefully— but I fear that I expect too much from him.
The cynical and contrived nature of EU politics means that many in the heart of Europe view the painful crisis faced by our fishermen and others as "beneficial". It is not beneficial to those hardworking, decent men, their wives and their babies, whom I have met in the past several weeks. It is not beneficial to their communities, to our land or to our nation. Let me tell the Minister, the House and our fishermen that the Conservatives do not share the Prime Minister's complacent acquiescence. We will champion the British fishing industry, and we will work with other parties who are prepared to share that campaign with the industry and with us. We will fight to secure the fishermen's future, because their battle is our battle, and it is emblematic of the battle for our nation, for our right to decide on policies that affect our communities. We will fight for our right to govern ourselves
§ Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central)
It is always interesting to hear the views of the Conservatives. I am sure that the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) took comfort from the fact that his predecessor in post, the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton)— her constituency is that well known fishing port-is sitting directly behind him.
828 The hon. Gentleman was pulled up a little by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) on history. Perhaps if he had concentrated a little on history before making some of the points in his speech, he might have done a little better, especially in relation to his plaintive cries that the Prime Minister should pay more attention to the fishing industry. I remind him that the last time a Prime Minister put fishing at the top of the agenda, he gave the industry away, walked into the common fisheries policy, and created almost 30 years of turmoil in the Conservative party. I see the hon. Gentleman nodding at that, and I am grateful for an acknowledgement. The matter is being dealt with properly, and I am delighted that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary is joined in the Chamber by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, to acknowledge the importance of the industry not just in the UK but particularly in Scotland.
Clearly, this is a difficult time for the industry. In all the years I have been attending fisheries debates, there always seems to be an air of crisis at this time of year. On this occasion, the crisis seems a little more real than on previous ones. That is no wonder, given the bombshells of the scientific evidence and the response from the Commission, especially the threat of a complete ban on cod fishing and severe restriction on other quotas— particularly white fish quotas— not just because of the state of those stocks, but because of the cod by-catch. That has caused real fears in the fishing industry.
There are many reasons why we are here today, some of which we understand, some of which we are still trying to learn about. There are some very important points to make, and I acknowledge the robust stance taken by my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary on the position that the Government will take in the Council negotiations next month. It is important that that be maintained to the bitter end.
My first point is that we are seeing a significant sea change in the way in which we look at the issue of conservation. In the past, with the odd exception of some effort control, the main tool has been limitation of catching. We have controlled it by quota, by technical measures and by gear changes, and it is clear that that has failed over the years. When one speaks to people in the industry, one finds that there is a great deal of cynicism about the effectiveness of controls on the catch. One prominent member of the industry recently said to me that catching controls would only have worked if we had had a policeman or inspector on every boat. Clearly, that would be ludicrous.
As the Under-Secretary pointed out, however, the industry has a history of black fish— and, sometimes, illegal fishing— of very high and often unnecessary discard rates, of wrong reporting, and sometimes of elaborate methods to circumvent the technology. I know from my experience in north-east Scotland that although the industry body, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, makes tremendous efforts and takes a lead in introducing and encouraging new technological measures to limit catching in the North sea, not all members of the federation follow that lead. It is important that that be understood. If we accept that we are currently in a crisis, we must be realistic and honest, and the Under-Secretary was certainly honest.
829 The realities in the North Sea and other fishing grounds are such that there is enormous pressure on our fishermen, which is another part of the reality. It is part of the culture to catch fish while they are there— by the next visit, the fish will have moved on or someone else will have caught them. I understand that pressure. The most important thing about catching controls, however, was that they were an attempt to use biology as part of the process of making the scientific evidence relevant. The contribution of scientists to the debate, in using biological measures as the basis for establishing quotas, is entirely justified. That also enabled scientists to avoid any responsibility for the social and economic consequences of their advice.
What the Commission proposes is different. We have had attempts at effort limitation previously— in the early 1990s, when we had tie-ups and days at sea— but they have not lasted. However, that seems to be the direction in which we are heading, as the Commission proposes to impose effort control and limits on fishing capacity. If the result of scientific evidence is that our fishing boats are tied up in harbour, and fishermen cannot go out to earn their living to feed their families— or, in most cases, to service their substantial bank loans— the scientists are moving themselves right into the centre of the debate in terms of the socio-economic consequences of their decisions. There is a big difference between imposing a quota on a man who goes out to do his daily work of catching fish— which may or may not be there— and saying that he cannot do that. That marks a significant shift in the Commission's policy and the way in which it should be viewed. When the Under-Secretary attends the Council next month, I hope that that point will be borne heavily in mind. I know that he has heard, and will hear from, my colleagues from the north of Scotland in particular— they sit on the Opposition Benches— about how devastating the consequences of the Commission's proposals are. It is extremely important that all of that be borne in mind.
Because there are dire socio-economic consequences for the catching side, for the communities that rely on their efforts, and for the processing side, which still relies heavily on locally caught fish, there is no doubt that we face serious restrictions and that we need to implement strong conservation measures. The policy should lead to a sustainable fishing industry, and it is important to put it on the record that both sides of the industry have been working hard to develop policies for sustainability.
I recently received a report from the Fish Industry Forum entitled "Sustainable Seafood— Working Together". It has been submitted to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and the objectives in the report are important. It wantsa profitable and sustainable seafood sector that competes internationally, is a good steward of the marine environment and provides good food and a significant contribution to a healthy diet for people in the UK and around the world.Most important, the forum says:We want to set up a new working partnership between government and industry.We have waited years to hear that sort of language and it is a bit of a tragedy that it comes through only at a time of crisis in the industry.
The industry needs time and support to adjust. That is why I am particularly worried by the way in which the Commission approaches its responsibilities. It seems to 830 be suggesting an abrupt, almost overnight, move from catching controls to very severe effort limitation, with no time for the industry to adjust and for the Government to introduce the necessary support measures.
It has always been a mystery to me why anyone should tolerate decisions on how the industry should operate from 1 January being taken in virtually the last days of December. That is one of the hazards that the industry faces. It is impossible to plan and for anyone to develop a proper operation for their business. I know that we are moving to multi-annual quotas, and they are to be welcomed, but it has taken a heck of a long time to get there. However, and more important, rapid change and abrupt turns need time to be implemented, and the Commission's proposals are not the best way to do that. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will bear that point in mind.
I refer to a recurrent theme at this time of year. I am concerned about the agenda for the Council meeting in December. The future of the CFP is being shoved on to the same agenda as all the other important issues that are traditionally debated at this time of year. I have spoken of crisis, but we in the House must work hard to be responsible and not talk up a crisis. It is easy for an Opposition to do that. I have been in opposition, and I know how often we did it. However, it is important not to talk up a crisis, because people's livelihoods are at stake. They are worried. Their bank manager is phoning up to tell them that he has been reading the local newspaper and about the crisis in the industry and asking whether they will be able to pay their loans next year. The pressure is on us now and not next year, when the measures may or may not bite.
I am deeply concerned about what has been the almost traditional approach of the Commission. It has introduced what appear to be draconian measures and puts them on the table on the basis that they will be discussed. However, that is done in the full knowledge that negotiation and settlement will take place much further down the chain. That is extremely worrying. However, I am even more worried this time, because there appears to be an attempt to trade off the annual negotiations against the longer-term review of the CFP. I am worried by the Commission's approach. I hope that my hon. Friend will recognise that the issues must be separated. The CFP must stand in isolation, and we must not be bullied by the Commission's threat of draconian measures into accepting measures that we would not otherwise accept.
My main concern is with the fish processing side of the industry. In modern times at least, there has been the assumption that, whatever happens in the North sea, the processing industry will be okay because it can survive on imports. It is true that a large proportion of the cod that is processed in Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh is imported. It comes from Iceland, the Barents sea and some from as far afield as China. However, the industry makes it clear that it still relies heavily—the figure is about 60 per cent.—on the white fish caught in the North sea.
§ Mr. Michael Weir (Angus)
Does the hon. Gentleman accept that what he says about imported fish applies to large processors? There are many small family firms in my constituency and they rely totally on fish landed at 831 Scottish ports, principally Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Aberdeen. The closure of the fishery will destroy such firms. The large firms may be able to survive with imports, but the small ones cannot.
§ Lawrie Quinn
Does my hon. Friend agree with the concern expressed on the quayside at Whitby about the Faroese, in particular, dumping stock, depressing the price and, therefore, compounding the problem that the industry faces?
§ Mr. Savidge
My hon. Friend is making an excellent, balanced and comprehensive speech. As recently as last week, our producers in Aberdeen were telling us that, although it is true that some people can rely on imports, a number of local processors rely on perhaps as much as 85 per cent. of white fish caught locally.
§ Mr. Doran
My hon. Friend makes his point.
I have spoken to many processors and they express a range of views. The most consistent opinion that they express— this will probably cause dismay to many catchers who do not already know this— is that they support a total ban on cod fishing but that the quotas for haddock and whiting should be appropriate to the stocks. There will be a by-catch with the haddock and whiting, and many processors recognise that such a ban would cause great difficulties for many fishermen, particularly those who invested heavily in buying up cod quotas. They would face serious difficulties. It is not an easy choice and I do not pretend that it is. However, I know that my hon. Friend the Minister will bear such issues in mind in the negotiations.
The fish processing industry employs about 4,500 people. The figure constantly fluctuates, but processing is still a major industry in the north-east of Scotland. Even Aberdeen, which is a significant oil town and known as the energy capital of Europe, relies heavily on the fish processing industry. In fact, my recent discussions with the industry have concentrated as much, if not more, on labour shortages as on quotas. The industry is still a major contributor to the local economy. The industry will find it difficult if cuts to the haddock and white fish sector of the market take place on the scale suggested. The industry already faces a skills shortage and we might lose the skills that we have. We lost skills in the herring industry 20 years ago, and we do not want that experience to be repeated. A significant number of my constituents depend on the fishing industry, and skills have been acquired. Those skills are not transferable, and we want the industry to be sustained.
We face difficult times. I know from my private conversations with my hon. Friend the Minister that he fully understands the importance of the fishing industry to Scotland and to the whole UK. I know that he will 832 fight our corner— this is the party political broadcast. It is important at any time of crisis to recognise that there may also be opportunities. For years in Edinburgh, London and Brussels, we have debated the need for a sustainable sea fishing industry. We have made some progress, but most of the time we have lurched between annual quota negotiations without too much sense of direction. Out of this crisis may come an opportunity to lay the ground for a properly structured system that is based on sustainability and tied to conservation measures that can guarantee a viable future for the industry.
§ 3.9 pm
§ Andrew George (St. Ives)
I beg to move, as an amendment to the motion, leave out from "fishing" to end and add:calls on the Government to resist any proposal for inappropriate and excessive cuts in fishing effort and Total Allowable Catches for 2003, to confirm the 6 and 12-mile access restrictions on a permanent basis, to continue relative stability (including the Hague Preference) and retain the Shetland Box, and to seek the early review of third country agreements; believes that future policies must be based on Regional Management Committees through which fishermen would work with scientists and governments to agree sustainable and fairly enforced zonal management for their local fisheries; and calls on the Government to work with the devolved administrations and the fishing industry to produce its promised strategy for the long-term sustainable future of the UK fishing industry and to seek backing for this strategy at meetings of the EU Fisheries Council.
Given that we have little more than two hours left, I shall do my best to be brief. Many hon. Members have a great knowledge of the fishing interests in their constituencies, so it is a pity that a disproportionate amount of time was taken up by the Tory Front Bench. Although I like the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes)— [Interruption.] I do not want to get into an argument about time, because that will only result in the loss of yet more time.
There is a gathering consensus among hon. Members who represent constituencies with a fishing interest. The Government motion is ostensibly about the common fisheries policy. A great tome has been presented to the House on aspects of that. It is clear that those who know about and understand fishing constituencies are coming to recognise the right and proper direction that the policy is taking.
The Liberal Democrats have not tabled the amendment because we disagree with the Government motion. Our concern is that it does not reflect the debate in the industry and the concerns about what might happen as a result of negotiations on future quotas for stock, especially around the UK's coast. It is important to ensure that the debate gives time to those issues. We want to put fire in the Minister's belly and hope he accepts that some of the science is questionable. He said that we should challenge the science if it can be robustly attacked on scientific grounds, and take our concerns to the Commission.
The question is whether we will sustain enough of the fishing industry in this country to make a debate on the future of the common fisheries policy worth while. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran) rightly said that we often debate the future of the fishing industry at this time of the year, and every year we are at various degrees of crisis management. Although I do 833 not want to say that we have cried wolf, it is important to realise that the issues are now so serious and deep that we have gone beyond crisis management. If the proposals by the Commission and ICES are accepted, they will have a significant impact on fishing communities not just in Scotland, but around all the UK's coast. The problem demands special measures and urgent attention. We need cross-party consensus on how to proceed. It is clear that the future of the fishing industry is far more important than narrow party political point scoring, which is often a factor in the debate. I will do my best to avoid that.
§ Lawrie Quinn
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his remarks. In that spirit, does he agree that it would be appropriate for fishing communities around the country for the Liberal Democrats to withdraw their amendment? They have in a sense provoked the debate, although it is not necessary to put fire in my hon. Friend's belly.
§ Andrew George
I am sure that the Government will accept our amendment after the Minister reflects on what my hon. Friends and I have to say on such serious issues. Our amendment embellishes and improves their motion.
§ Mr. Salmond
I think I have a way out of the impasse. If the Liberals and the Government accept the Scottish National party amendment, we will all be in agreement.
§ Andrew George
Enough of this jocularity. Let us get on with the main business.
The Minister said that his criticism of our amendment was minor because we have not incorporated the word "environmental", but Liberal Democrats do not need to do that. As we have tabled the amendment, it is self-evident that it is on the basis of environmental sustainability. We do not need to state that, but the Government clearly do.
We welcome the general direction of the common fisheries policy, which favours the implementation of multi-annual quotas. In the first year that I came into the House, I could not believe that we had to face ll thhour brinkmanship. I suggested multi-annual quotas, but that was met with derision. So if they are successful, I want to claim some credit for them. If they are not, however, I might find someone else to blame.
Regional advisory councils are welcome but do not go far enough. I think the Minister accepts that we need regional management councils instead. They need teeth. It is clear from unilateral measures in one fishing zone in Scotland that the industry can benefit from a more localised shared concern about the future of a fishery in one region or zone. That is helpful.
Extension of the six and 12-mile limits is also important for sustainability, but the common fisheries policy is weak on the problem of industrial fishing. As I said, an impact study on industrial fishing is only now being considered for next year, but draconian measures are already being introduced to many other sectors. Attention is only just being turned to the full impact of industrial fishing.
The Government need to be certain that aquaculture, which is dealt with at the end of the papers, is properly assessed. We need to be sure that the sea has the capacity 834 to enable that to happen. I hope that in developing aquaculture we will not deny or discourage hatchery projects. Those have been successful, certainly off the north Cornish coast, and we should encourage them.
We all agree that it is important to have a sustainable fishing industry. However, we must stick to sound science. Obviously, that raises questions about how sound the science is and whose science it is. I caution the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings in appealing to the emotions of people in coastal communities by saying, "We will not let you down." The fact is that we will let them down if we do not stick to the sound science because they will end up with no fisheries for ever. If difficult decisions need to be taken, it is important that politicians are tough, strong and robust enough to see them through.
Much of the science has to be questioned. Serious and genuine arguments are being put forward by the industry to counter the science. Questions inevitably arise about the science itself. The science is not an unquestionable pronouncement of God. We must consider who is producing it and how sound it is. If it is based on a balance of probability using projections, who is doing the assessment, is it up to date, and are all the factors taken into account? The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) gave alternative figures that challenged the science on the spawning stock biomass in a number of important fisheries. In fisheries in area VII— the western approaches— the hake recovery programme is showing a decrease, admittedly small, in mortality and an increase in the spawning stock biomass. Most of the science on cod in area VII comes from area VIId, where conditions are closer to those in the North sea, and does not take proper account of the state of cod in the western approaches and the Celtic sea. Some of those issues must be considered before making hard and fast decisions about managing and setting quotas for important species in those areas.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
I do not want to disturb the Liberal policy of squaring every circle, but is the hon. Gentleman saying that we should trust the scientists except in area VII?
§ Andrew George
No, I have already made my view clear. I accept the point made by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and a number of arguments by my hon. Friends who will speak later from a Scottish and Shetland perspective. I am making a general point that the science needs to be properly and robustly challenged on scientific grounds, not on emotional or political grounds. I was giving the example of stocks in area VII— the western approaches— particularly hake, but cod and haddock as well, because the subject would not otherwise be raised in this debate. I am glad that the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) gave me an opportunity to highlight that. There are serious uncertainties about the science and current information raises many questions. I therefore urge the Minister, instead of making hard and fast decisions that will affect the fishing effort from 1 January 2003— after all, fish stocks do not recognise human calendars-to take a more cautious approach, roll the debate forward if 835 necessary and keep a watching brief on critical fisheries. We would ultimately regret decisions that resulted in thousands of fishing jobs being lost overnight.
§ Ann Winterton
I am a little confused as to why the hon. Gentleman thinks that we will be able to make decisions to roll over the management of fisheries into the new year. He knows as well as anyone else that there is a cut-off date of 31 December and that Spain must be accommodated thereafter. The Commission makes the proposal, and the Minister only has 10 out of 87 votes in the Fisheries Council.
§ Andrew George
I have raised with Commissioner Fischler the issue of the six-mile and 12-mile limits. If they are not resolved, he has confirmed that there are ways of rolling forward the debate.
I do not want to spend much more time on the issue, as we do not have long and I know that other Members wish to speak. We need to look at alternatives such as selective and sophisticated local measures. The Cornish Fish Producers Organisation has proposed the closure of two areas in the Trevose ground. We need reassurance that the scientific advice is adequate. If recovery programmes are to be effective, we must look carefully at proposals to invest in them. If lay-ups, closed seasons and closed areas are to achieve a recovery of stock, it would be unwise to decommission vessels. We should find ways of funding their tie-up for an agreed period so that when stocks recover they can continue fishing.
The Minister has just left the Chamber, but I was just going to tell him that he is highly respected, resilient, sympathetic, sensitive and modest. Given that he was not born yesterday, he would wonder what all that flattery is leading to. It is this: can he go to the next Fisheries Council meeting and demonstrate not only knowledge, understanding, resilience, sensitivity and modesty, but passion? Once he has understood and taken on board the scientific issues and weighed the arguments about the balance of scientific evidence, will he fight for the fishermen? There have been stand-up rows between our Prime Minister and other Prime Ministers on other matters. Fisheries are of such importance to our country that I urge the Minister if necessary to engage the attention of the Prime Minister and other Ministers to ensure that the urgency of the situation is conveyed to European Ministers.
§ Mr. Morley
For the benefit of the House, may I point out that the Government are engaged at all levels? Indeed, this week, a representative from No. 10, a member of the Prime Minister's personal office, met me for a long briefing on where we are with these issues, our priorities and what we want to do. The hon. Gentleman should not think that we are not engaged with every single level of Government in every single region of the country.
§ Andrew George
That is reassuring, but we would like public evidence of that engagement.
Finally, we can take decisions in haste, but we would repent at leisure, which is why I urge the Minister to consider our amendment carefully. If many thousands 836 of people were made jobless in the manufacturing sector because of the closure of a factory, special taskforces would be set up, public money would be invested and urgent plans developed to deal with the problems. The fisheries problem is of equal severity, and I hope that the Minister will take on board the seriousness of the issue, given his clear and intricate knowledge of the subject.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord)
Before I call the next speaker, a large number of hon. Members are seeking to catch my eye. Unless contributions are considerably briefer, some Members will be disappointed
§ Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby)
I shall try to keep my remarks as brief as possible, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and shall try to represent as best I can the interests of the fishing communities of Scarborough and Whitby. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George) and I both entered the House in 1997. Over the years, it has been a great pleasure to work together in the spirit of partnership that he has demonstrated this afternoon, and I shall take up where he left off.
From my perspective on the Government Benches, the Minister was right to draw attention to the interest and support coming from the highest levels of the Government. I hope that, through the Minister's work in future discussions at European level, we will be able to demonstrate to our fishing communities how seriously the Government take the issues facing the industry, as evidenced by the industry taskforce, which has been so important in my part of the world when the loss of other jobs has been threatened.
The fishing industry is linked to Scarborough and Whitby almost by an umbilical cord, and I want to consider some of the socio-economic effects of the current proposals on the people whom I represent. Earlier today, on behalf of the fishing community based in Whitby, I drew attention to the representations that I have received from Mr. Arnold Locker, a Whitby fisherman and the current chairman of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations. I understand that Arnold, with his colleagues from the NFFO, will be visiting the Minister early next week.
I take this opportunity, on behalf of colleagues from the North sea ports, to thank the Minister for the briefing that he is arranging for us next week. I, and the others who attend, will make the most of that. I was pleased to hear that hon. Members from all parts of the House will attend. That is as it should be; we should all listen and try to work on behalf of the communities that we represent.
At Question Time today, I raised the issue of enforcement. Mr. Locker asked me to convey to the House a clear message about the type of enforcement to which his boats, like the boats of most of the Yorkshire fishery, are subject. He tells me that the boats may be boarded three or four times a week, when they are out there trying to earn their living. Mr. Locker wants the Minister to argue as strongly as possible in future weeks for that approach to be replicated across Europe.
I was pleased to hear from Mr. Locker that he wanted more robust science— science that was more effectively supported, and would be more meaningful than what we 837 have heard in recent years. Having spoken to the fishermen in Scarborough and Whitby over a number of years, I was gratified to hear such clear and unambiguous support for science from such an important leader of the industry. I hope that the Minister will be able to build on that in his discussions with the NFFO next week.
I mentioned the impact on local communities. The people who live in the old town of Scarborough—the bottom-enders—have lived in that community and gained a livelihood from fishing for generations. The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) referred to the number of deep-sea fishing vessels based in Scarborough and Whitby. I believe he said that there were four, but he did not mention the fact that over the years there has been a transfer of deep-sea vessels from the ports of Scarborough, Whitby and the rest of the North sea coast to the north-east of Scotland, as I am sure the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) would acknowledge.
Although the reference to the importance of the distinction between the English fishery and the Scottish fishery was dismissed, there is a strong historic link between my communities and those north-east ports. I say that in a spirit of solidarity, as we recognise that for every person involved in the fishing industry in England, there are probably three or more people working in the fishing industry in Scotland. We view the problem from a united community perspective.
The people of the old town in Scarborough and the fishing communities of Whitby are living on their nerves. They are so frightened. They are under pressure from the banks and from the people who try to help them with loans. There is a real sense that our communities are on the edge of a precipice. I hope that in his discussions with other members of the Government, the Minister will have regard to the serious psychological impact of the present situation on those communities. I hope that the public services will take account of the stress and trauma that relatively small but tightly knit communities such as mine are undergoing, and ensure that the appropriate support is available.
I take this opportunity to celebrate with the House the wonderful work done by organisations such as the Seafarers Mission and the fishermen's missions throughout the country. They are supporting fishing communities through extremely difficult times. In debates such as this it is traditional for the Minister to mention all the people who are, unfortunately, lost at sea as a result of their efforts to harvest the sea; perhaps he will do so in his concluding remarks. It is worth noting that the Whitby lifeboat has now celebrated 200 years of existence. That is an indication of how tightly knit that community is. We want to see fishing as a vibrant, sustainable way of making a living, and we want people to be able to go forward with the hope of future prosperity.
As the Minister knows, there was a small sign of hope for Whitby with the opening of the fishermen's apprentice school at the beginning of October. He has said that he will make every effort to visit the school in the new year, to see the work that is being done there. I can report to the House, including my hon. Friend, that people from as far a field as North Shields and further down towards Grimsby are showing great interest in the 838 school as a centre of excellence. I hope that the skills and techniques being taught in that important facility will start to address in an English context some of the concerns highlighted by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran) when he said that there was a drift of skills away from the industry. The school is a vital sign that the industry will not roll over and die without putting up a strong fight.
The hon. Member for St. Ives called for a fighting spirit. The families who fish, work and live along the coast of Yorkshire have a message for the House about the living that they earn from the North sea. They not only want the Minister to do his best for them—they know that from this Minister, they do get the best, because of what he has done for their industry—but they want a realistic approach that delivers for future generations. That is how they want me to express their views to the House today. After today's debate, we want to see some punches thrown by our fisheries Minister on behalf of the United Kingdom fishery—although we do not expect him to emulate the manner of the Deputy Prime Minister when he visited a certain north Wales town. We want to hear about a real fight—but not necessarily with shouting—for a sustainable future for our communities.
I have three questions for the Minister, which I hope he will be able to deal with in his closing remarks. First, diversification into the prawn fishery has been extremely important for boats that go out of Whitby, and we discussed earlier the important issue of by-catches. Will the Minister consider making representations or giving some confirmation for fishermen who have diversified about the dispensation for the by-catch? Will there be an opportunity to consider making even more effort with the prawn fishery?
§ Vera Baird (Redcar)
As my hon. Friend well knows, I represent the constituency immediately to the north of Scarborough and Whitby. Redcar has a very tiny fishing industry comprising small boats. In the scale of things—but I suppose that that is a silly word to use in a fishing debate; I shall start again. In terms of content, a minute quantity of cod is involved, and those in the industry now fear two things. The first is that they will not be able to catch cod any more, and the second is that their second catch, which consists of prawns but inevitably includes a small by-catch of cod, will also be stopped or severely restricted because of that minute—and, I would suggest, pretty inconsequential—by-catch. Can the Minister do anything to reassure them that they will not have to sustain a double collapse of their current means of living?
§ Lawrie Quinn
I am grateful for that intervention. My hon. and learned Friend put the argument far more succinctly than I could—but I am a mere simple engineer, whereas she obviously really is learned as well as honourable.
§ Mr. Morley
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. I might be able to help both him and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird). We have obviously been considering take-up and quotas in different parts of our fishery. The Thames inshore fleet accounts for only about 2 per cent. of the cod quota. In that respect, referring back to my 839 comments about low impact sustainable fisheries, I want to see whether I can make special arrangements for those sectors, and I shall try to do so.
§ Lawrie Quinn
I am sure that all fisherman in northeast England will be grateful to hear that response so swiftly.
Secondly, I have a question about the situation of the netsmen and the people who go for salmon. The Minister and his officials have been helpful in terms of dialogue and the bridge that I have tried to build for licence holders and netsmen based in Whitby. As a result, considerable progress has been made in getting a sustainable result for this important industry. Will he maintain a strong personal interest in how that situation evolves, recognising that the fishermen concerned are also involved in the shellfish fishery? Will he also have regard to opportunities and development support work in marketing that important fishery?
I know that the Minister's officials have looked into the important contribution that species such as the velvet crab might make. That product is very marketable, especially in the Iberian sector. On the basis that most of the shellfish landed at the port of Whitby seem to be placed in refrigerated lorries and sent across the country to the fish markets of Paris and Barcelona, a strong contribution could be made in relation to my demand that the fishing industry and community be kept tightly knit together in Whitby. I hope that the Minister will consider that important point.
Finally, there are parallels between the fishing industry and the other major heavy production industries in the economy. The Minister will have recognised in his community of Scunthorpe the changes and the problems that the steel industry has faced. He knows that my background is in the railway industry, and he is aware of the changes that have occurred in transport engineering in the city of York and the north Yorkshire area. I am sure that he knows about the impact of that great change on coal mining communities. Will he use his best efforts to ensure that there is greater engagement, especially in the English regional development agencies, in recognition of the fact that those communities are on a knife edge? They are waiting for something to happen. They think that it will be awful; indeed, many Members here share their fears. Those communities need support and assistance from the Government to see them through some dark days. I hope that the Minister will make clear representations to Commissioner Fischler, and have regard to the fact that if the provision of social support for fishing communities is good enough for other European countries, we certainly want to see it in the United Kingdom—in Yorkshire, and in Scarborough and Whitby.
§ Ann Winterton (Congleton)
This debate is being held at a critical time for the future of the United Kingdom fishing industry, which has perhaps finally realised that it is facing a cliff face. Those in the industry say that the matter is now becoming political and has nothing to do with common sense. In the few words that I am about to 840 say, I hope that I can show them why they are right, how the matter is political and how that will adversely affect their future.
To understand the future, we need to look at the past. Thirty-one years ago, the House of Commons was misled during debates in which it was suggested that we were entering what was portrayed as a common market. Members of Parliament were assured that our fishing industry was safe and that our fishermen were protected by the British veto, when the true situation was quite the reverse. Seventeen years ago, the House of Commons was misled once again. During debates on the accession of Spain and Portugal, we were led to believe that the 1983 agreement sharing the stocks among member states was the common fisheries policy that we had signed up for. Spain was portrayed as having been successfully accommodated in the common fisheries policy with no future threat to our national fleet.
For the past 31 years—and, indeed, in today's debate—there has been little mention of the acquis communautaire that we originally accepted on taking up our membership, as do all new entrant countries to what is now called the European Union. The management system of 1983, which consisted of quota cuts and decommissioning, has not provided one successful fishery. Speaker after speaker has seconded that view. The real aim of that system was to enable the integration of the individual fishing fleets of the member states into a single European fleet operating in the already declared and accepted single European Union pond. If the industry does not understand that that is the core of the problem, no one will be able to prevent the eradication that will come.
The maritime cake comprises the available resources from all member states—the waters in their exclusive fishing zones plus any temporary agreements negotiated with third countries. Our nation, the United Kingdom, contributed the largest proportion to that maritime cake. It is surely obvious that, as other nations join, they will look to our slice and to United Kingdom waters for their equal share. The same applies when time-limited agreements with third countries are not renewed and the participating countries require a bigger slice of remaining resources. I hasten to add that that is always inevitably to the detriment of the United Kingdom. After all, the one basic principle of the common fisheries policy under the acquis communautaire is to provideAn equitable standard of living for the population which depends on fishing for its livelihood.The cod situation has created the beneficial crisis needed to ensure that the Commission can achieve that goal. The cod and hake recovery programme containing the details of the new management system will be adopted: let there be no doubts or misunderstandings about that. Faced with a choice between total closure and greatly reduced effort, Ministers will accept the latter.
As John Farnell, Fisheries Minister in the Scottish Parliament, recently said to that Administration's Rural Development Committee,The main driver for reduction of the fleet"—
§ Ann Winterton
If hon. Members sat quietly and listened—[HON. MEMBERS: "What was his name?"] I intend to repeat not his name but his words. At least, I shall begin to repeat what he said. If hon. Members disagree with his views, they can let the House know that.
§ Mr. Salmond
On a point of order, Madam Deputy Speaker. Hon. Members should know that Mr. Farnell is a European Commission official, not a Fisheries Minister in the Scottish Parliament.
§ Ann Winterton
I beg the House's pardon if I am mistaken. I slipped up when reading my notes and I apologise for that. However, John Farnell's words constitute the vital point. He said:The main driver for reduction of the fleet will no longer be Community legislation with targets for capacity to be achieved at the end of a given time; rather, it will be the economic consequences of having to live with fishing effort limits.He continued:We believe that much of the fleet will decide to move out of fishing because it will be difficult for vessels to remain profitable with some of the fishing effort limits that might be necessary for conservation.That majority will be the British, mainly the Scots. A trail of deprivation and social problems will ensue in our coastal communities.
It sickens me to the core to think that those years of deception, as European Union integration drove quietly and surreptitiously onwards, will result in the eradication of a way of life and of skills built up and passed down from generation to generation.
Before anyone asserts that we are protected by relative stability, let me emphasise the genuine difference between the principle and the application keys that were determined under it. Why do people imagine that successive British Governments signed designation orders for every member state, including Austria and Luxembourg, allowing them to catch all species outside the 12-mile limit? How will relative stability protect vessels with different quota allocations for cod, haddock or whiting when the Commission's proposal prevents any vessel that has exhausted the days allocated for cod from going to sea to catch other species, even if some of the quota remains?
John Farnell informed the Rural Development Committee of the Scottish Parliament that allocation keys should be reviewed every five years,in order to ensure that they correspond to real fishing interests, as opposed to interests on paper".The quota that British vessels were given in 1983 does not reflect the current structure of the fleet.
I am delighted that the important issue of the food source has been raised. The food chain continues to be broken by industrial fishing. Many people do not know that it takes 4 kg of fish to produce 1 kg of fish meal pellets. It takes 2 kg of pellets for a salmon to grow 1 kg in weight. Raising a farmed salmon that weighs 2 kg 842 requires 16 kg of industrial species. Cod also rely on that food to survive in the wild. They are therefore deprived of the feed that they need to survive, grow and reproduce. If there is no food for the fish, is it surprising that they move to areas where they can find sustenance? After all, as has been said many times, the sea has no boundaries.
What do our fishermen face in January 2003? The relevant area covers almost the whole UK 200-mile limit. Fishermen face a restriction on their days at sea in the form of kilowatt days, a multiple of time at sea and engine size. Vessels that have no record of catching cod or hake will have to discard every single fish of those species that they find in their nets.
When days at sea are used up, the vessel will not be allowed to put to sea again in the relevant area. Any reduction in time at sea will destroy the whole white fish fleets in areas such as Shetland, Peterhead and the north-east, and the hake fleets from the south-west.
The Advisory Committee for Fisheries Management has proposed a complete ban on landing cod, haddock and whiting while promoting an increase in the total allowable catch for saithe or coley. Under the current relative stability keys for the UK, the share of the North sea quota is 47 per cent. of cod, 78 per cent. of haddock and 53 per cent. of whiting, but 17 per cent. of saithe. Most of the latter falls to France and Germany.
It is ironic that British fishermen have claimed for more than five years that the scientific advice on, and subsequent TAC for, saithe is not in line with what they were catching and discarding. Yet the scientists have decided to increase their assessment by more than 30 per cent. only now, when most British vessels will be tied up and unable to benefit from it. That provides more evidence, if it were needed, that British vessels are to be forced out of business to save the rest of the European fleet.
The only realistic answer is for the UK Parliament to assert its undoubted authority and restore fisheries policy to national control. Some of those who are listening may believe that that policy is extreme. A Liberal Democrat Member described it in precisely those terms on South West Television. However, in the early 1990s, a fishermen's leader from Senegal visited the south-west. He asked for help to prevent the CFP from destroying the lives of many artisanal fishermen who were run down in their open pirogues at night by vessels from the European Union that were permitted to fish Senegal's waters through a third country agreement.
An article in "Classic Boat" magazine in September stated that in 2000, 300 fishermen from Mauritania were drowned after the European boats sank their indigenous craft, often at night. Those responsible were fined a mere £3,500 and, in some circumstances, let off scot-free.
I therefore emphasise to Liberal Democrat Members that continuing to support the CFP in any form is to support an extreme regime that destroys fish stocks and the livelihoods of our fishermen. It has destroyed the lives of fishermen from the west African states that I mentioned.
Taking extreme action now is the only way in which to halt the extreme predicament of fishermen. They are staring disaster in the face because of the eradication of the white fish sector in the north-east and Shetland. The predicament is caused by the EU's pressing need to 843 accommodate the Spanish fleet, which has waited 16 years for equal access to the common resource under the terms of its accession treaty. Other countries are waiting to join in 2004. Poland in particular has huge fisheries interests.
The way forward, if we had the political will, is to stop the impending disaster in its tracks by doing what the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) attempted in 1996. I am glad that he is in his place today. He promoted a Bill to introduce national control. One of its sponsors was the current Leader of the Opposition, who was present earlier to listen to part of the debate.
The Fisheries Limits (Amendment) Bill sought to amend the European Communities Act 1972. European legislation can be incorporated in UK law only through that Act. Are the Government prepared to take that action? It would not mean that we had to leave the European Union.
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for giving way, although she might not like the reason for my intervention. I accept her lavish praise for my 1996 Bill—it was a brilliant Bill—but I must remind her that it received practically no support from the Conservative Government at the time.
§ Ann Winterton
The hon. Gentleman makes a fair point, but that was then. We are now facing the meltdown of the United Kingdom's fisheries. The situation is so dire that politicians who are elected to the House—those in Government in particular; after all, it is they who propose measures, not Back-Bench Members—must take action. I hope that he will join me in encouraging his Government to follow the excellent example that he set many years ago, when he had the foresight to know what needed to be done.
I ask again: are the Government prepared to take the action that I have outlined? Would the other political parties in the House support such a move? I have no hesitation in saying that the Liberal Democrats would not, because their declared policy is unequivocal support for further European integration. [Interruption.] It is. That is well known, and no Liberal Democrat Member has got up to deny it.
§ Ann Winterton
I have given way to interventions, but I shall be as quick as I can so that the hon. Gentleman can speak.
If we are not prepared to act in the best interests of our country, we relinquish our responsibilities to our constituents. Those hon. Members who represent coastal constituencies, in particular, will need to think carefully about this. If they are honest, they should tell their constituents that they support the unelected European Commission having the control and management of this vital resource—a resource that, by Act of Parliament and under international law, belongs to the British people.
844 The common fisheries policy has a track record of producing social and environmental disaster of unbelievable proportions in United Kingdom coastal communities. Those who wish this policy to continue in any form have already decided that the interests of European Union integration come before the interests of the United Kingdom. I am one of those who believe that the interests of our country and its people are paramount, and we have one last chance to save the British fishing industry. I hope that we do not fail it.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)
Order. Clearly, a considerable number of right hon. and hon. Members want to catch my eye. I therefore urge them to make shorter speeches.
§ 4.3 pm
§ Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby)
I do not think we have ever had a fisheries debate that has been surrounded by such an air of gloom, particularly from the fishing organisations. The DEFRA officials in the Box have not even smiled once during it, so I take it that the situation is fairly serious. I have been worried that the crisis has been hyped up by the Commission as a justification for more draconian changes to the common fisheries policy. I was not going to voice that suspicion, because I want to advance my career in the Labour party. My hon. Friend the Minister has, however, given us his "less Eurosceptic than thou" peroration. I accept that there is pleasure to be gained from jumping on the guilt scars and the Heath complexes of the Conservatives, who are so embarrassed by the situation that they have created that they have not even bothered to attend this afternoon's debate, in contrast with every other party.
It is fair to recognise that we are in this crisis largely because of the common fisheries policy. A policy that is based on equal access to a common resource cannot provide for effective conservation in a way that a nation state controlling its own waters—and making swap arrangements with other countries on that basis—can do. In Europe, politics is more important than conservation. There has been a tendency to give everyone a catch, to trade catches, to make room for incoming states such as Spain, and to dole out catches by means of quotas, which is an inherently bad means of conservation. Those faults are implicit in the policy and it would be unreasonable not to recognise that.
If the nation that contributes two thirds of the stocks to the so-called common market pool—which once had the richest fishing grounds in Europe and which needs a healthy fishing industry and healthy fishing communities—has to accept the biggest cuts in its efforts and its fleets, that outcome will be totally unacceptable to the House. That will be compounded if we maintain for too long the current policy of accepting only minimal grants from Europe. Other fishing industries have done far better out of grants from the common fisheries policy than we have, partly because of the Fontainebleau agreement, which means that the Treasury does not want to make its contribution. It would be unreasonable to see other industries financed to take the stocks—when they build up—that our industry cannot because it has not been adequately financed. We need to make that point to the Government.
845 I have every faith in my hon. Friend; he has been an excellent Minister. He has done well for the fishing industry and consulted it closely. He has to build up coalitions in Europe, however, and we cannot therefore expect pristine clarion declarations from him. It is fair to point out, however, that fishing organisations have questioned the science, and I believe that they should do so. They have pointed out that the measures make no allowance for the fact that fishing effort has been falling while the stock biomass has been increasing, and that there has been no time to assess the new measures involving mesh sizes, and fleet reductions produced by decommissioning, particularly in Denmark. They also point out that the advice can be contradicted in some areas—perhaps only in area VII, although I have heard of this in other areas, too—by the practical experience of the fishermen.
It is fair to point out that the advice from the scientists is tentative; it is not absolute. I shall quote them:This is the first step in establishing linkage.It is too early to take existing recovery measures into account.The numerical veracity of linkage is not endorsed.This is a new untested mixed fishery model.The calculations are not validated.If we were to allow the scientists to produce a ban—particularly on North sea cod—we would be making a serious mistake.
It would be ludicrous if we did not ban industrial fishing in this situation. The hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton) made the point earlier that this is the equivalent of killing eight cows to produce one genetically modified cow. That is the feeding ratio of fish caught in industrial fishing to farmed fish. The industry could not accept a situation in which draconian cuts were made, but industrial fishing carried on. There is always a by-catch, a catch of immature, juvenile fish that will grow up, and I think that we have to have that.
There is a case, too, for postponing the advent of Spain in the system. I know that it has a legal right to join, but it is going to want to establish a track record. It is unrealistic to expect that it will not fish in these areas. If it establishes a track record, there will be by-catches and discards, and it will have to put back species that it is not allowed to catch—that is, most of them. We cannot afford that further damage to the stocks.
It is right that the regional advisory committees, which are a very tentative part of the Commission's proposals, should, in fact, be regional management councils. That is what the industry wanted when it adopted that measure as a means of giving the stakeholders, the fishermen, a say—in fact, giving them management and control—in the catching in their area. We must beef up those committees to that level very quickly, because only they can apply the specific measures that specific areas need. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has said that it is prepared to talk about the targeted, special measures that are needed-indeed, it should talk about them. Those measures would be a far better way of dealing with this situation than an outright ban. The NFFO lists the following suggestions:Targeted decommissioningClosed seasonsClosed spawning areas846Closed nursery areasFunded voluntary tie-upsMore selective fishing gear".I would add a one-net rule to that list. Those are all approaches that we need to embark on in this crisis.
I come to days at sea. I fought alongside my hon. Friend the Minister—I was his bag carrier, for which he gave me the valiant service medal, but not the job as his parliamentary private secretary that I was looking for—when the Conservative Government proposed the days at sea limitation. The NFFO is still strongly and strenuously opposed. In fact, it destroyed days at sea with its appeal to Europe.
Days at sea limits, or time limits on fishing, still have a problem of intellectual consistency, although that is par for the course on this side of the House: having opposed it, can we now accept it? I am coming round to the view that, because we would limit the time spent fishing, which is crucial, we could consider it on two grounds. First, the benefit of being closer to the stocks than competitors, if we receive it, is substantial; secondly, the lying-up periods, tying-up periods and non-fishing periods are financed by Europe or the Government—they have to be. The industry is teetering on the verge of bankruptcy in many cases, and it is unreasonable to force it to accept a limit on effort without financial compensation.
My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) made a point about discards. When we saw the Commission's director of conservation—if I had that title, I would commit suicide—he told us that the Norwegian system of requiring all discards to be taken back to port is not working, but there is a case for it that we should consider. If all discards had to be brought in to be used for fish-meal or to be sold for whatever purposes, provided that the minimum landing rules are changed, we would know exactly what was going on, and we certainly need to.
That point brings me back to where I started. My hon. Friend the Minister will fight for the British fishing industry—I have every confidence in his doing so—and Labour Members are not here to negotiate the death of the British fishing industry. The World Wildlife Fund has produced an important set of proposals on what it calls investment in fishing, and it is quite right. How do we finance a fishing industry from here, where it is going to contract and there has to be decommissioning? Those matters should be handled fairly between Scotland and England, not by the Minister being left to scratch round in DEFRA's back pocket for whatever money is left over to match the £25 million provided in Scotland.
We must help to finance that managed decline and curtailment of effort to the point at which we get sustainable stocks and sustainable fishing, which will be the reward for the conservation measures that we are being asked to accept. We will accept them, if there is a future for fishing and if the Government or the Community—I am not bothered which—invest in the industry.
There must be investment in fishing so that it can come through from where we are now—the prelude to further decline—to the point we shall reach if and when those conservation measures work.
§ Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan)
I was watching television this morning and I saw the harrowing pictures from Galicia of the oil spill and the resulting damage to the environment, wildlife and fishing communities. Perhaps it has been caused by human greed in terms of single-hull tankers, but it is a tragedy none the less—an environmental and natural disaster.
I thought to myself how much more of a tragedy it would be if fishing communities here had visited on them an unnecessary disaster, not one resulting from an accident or from the environment. The more I consider the issue, the more convinced I am that any panic measure taken by the European Commission this December would be unnecessary and wrong. It would visit extreme suffering on many communities in pursuit of a totally unworkable policy and conditions not borne out by the science.
A few days ago, the Minister accused me of attacking the science—I wish he had not—as if the science were read. I was not attacking the science; I was attacking the conclusions drawn by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea from the scientific research that we have in front of us. The Minister himself, as has been pointed out twice in the debate, reserves himself the right, correctly in my view, to question the ICES recommendation that 1 million tonnes of industrial fish can be swept out of the North sea, including 50,000 tonnes of human consumption by-catch, while a human consumption fishery is closed down. He questions ICES on that matter, so the rest of us are entitled to consider the ICES report and the reality of what is in the science rather than the panicky pronouncements and manipulations that we see in so many of the comments from Commissioner Fischler and elsewhere.
The reality is that the figures show that the haddock spawning biomass, which, as the Minister knows, is by far the most important thing, is the highest since 1971. The spawning stock biomass for saithe is the highest since 1976, the whiting spawning stock is the largest since 1991 and everyone knows that prawn stocks are extremely robust. All that is in the figures.
Cod stocks are extremely low and extremely vulnerable, but even cod stocks have increased by 27 per cent. on the estimates in the figures compared with last year's total. Furthermore, all the figures that I have read out to the House—[Interruption.] The Minister looks at his officials, but I have the figures here and I can easily read them out. He does not need his officials when I am here. If he so wishes, I can read out the spawning stock biomass figures; believe me, they are correct.
The figures—the estimates—that I have read out refer to the largest spawning stock biomass for a range of white fisheries and, even from a very low level, there is a recovery in the cod stock biomass. However, all those estimates take account of the same effort this year as last. That is the underlying assumption in the scientific advice, but we all know that there was not the same effort last year as this. Why not? Because 20 per cent. of the Scottish fleet is no more—it has been decommissioned. The Scottish fleet is also now fishing with 110 mm nets with square mesh panels.
Incidentally, the £25 million package already referred to was for not just the decommissioning scheme, but £1 million went to research involving scientists and 848 fishermen. We have the results, which show the escape of marketable haddock from 110 mm nets as 50 per cent. and that of marketable whiting as 70 per cent. We know that, as a direct result, the whiting and haddock quota will not be fished this year, not because there are no haddock and whiting in the sea, as they are there aplenty, but because there are very few discards of those marketable fish in the Scottish sector of the North sea as a result of the technical measures introduced by the Scottish fleet.
My good friend the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) made some interesting remarks. I am tempted to say that he said he wants to join us, although he was not making a territorial demand. That is my understanding, but he should remember, of course, that if he did so his fleet would be fishing with 110 mm nets with square mesh panels, as opposed to those in waters south of Newcastle where, remarkably, there are small cod and people are fishing with 80 mm nets. [HON. MEMBERS: "120 mm."] In Norwegian waters, 120 mm nets are used, but 80 mm fishing is allowed, as the Minister well knows, south of Newcastle. The reality is that serious conservation measures have already been taken—conservation measures that he and I have argued for over many years. However, somehow and fantastically, they have not been included in the scientific assessment presented to us as the solution when stocks, or at least the biomass, are expanding. Somehow, the solution is to close the fishery. That is an unbelievable and lunatic recommendation from the European Commission and any serious analysis of the science would come to exactly the same conclusion.
Why is that important? It is important because no one will be to blame if we allow people to say, "It is a shame about our fishing communities—a great tragedy—but there are no fish in the sea." We could all blame each other for the various stances that we have taken in politics over the past 20 years: people might blame the fishermen and the processors, the fishermen might blame the processors, the east coast might blame the west, Scotland might blame England and everybody might blame Spain. None the less, nobody would be essentially to blame because nothing can be done.
The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), who is one of the few Members who is more loyal now than when he was a member of the Government, illustrated that point by saying, "Nothing can be done. What hope is there?" Read the figures: the reality is that plenty can be done. If it is not done, the people who live around the coastline of Scotland and elsewhere will want to know why.
§ Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East)
I am very interested in the points that the hon. Gentleman has made and I hope that he makes his information available or tells us where it is available. Is there not a contradiction? The Scottish Fishermen's Federation says thatthere is a tendency to 'high grading' (landing only the most valuable fish) in cod and associated fisheries …This will lead to excessive discarding and will increase mortality beyond the levels foreseen by the TAC.849 However, the hon. Gentleman seems to be saying that that is not happening in Scotland. Why has the SFF alerted us to this fact in its own brief?
§ Mr. Salmond
What is happening in Scotland is this: because of the move to a large mesh and square-mesh panel, there are huge escapes of haddock and whiting. Haddock and whiting are smaller than cod and are no longer under pressure, but in any event using a high mesh-110 mm in Scottish waters, or 120 in regional waters—will mean a much more environmentally satisfactory fishery.
The Scottish fleet's transfer to the higher mesh has caused it some grief because the higher mesh allows many fish to escape, but that sacrifice—that conservation measure—was not taken into account in the Commission's calculation. There is no argument: according to the ICES advice, there was no time for assessment of the impact of the measures taken.
§ Mr. Doran
There is concern about the way in which these measures are being used out at sea. It is simple enough to get around technical measures that have been quite properly implemented in Scotland. A fisherman told me recently that square mesh panels are at the top of nets because fish swim upwards, and that if the net is turned the other way up they cannot get out. I do not know whether the allegations are true, but when suspicions and problems are floating around in the industry even more caution is needed.
§ Mr. Salmond
If the technical measures were not working, there would not have been the 50 per cent. escape of haddock reported by the joint scientific body. Moreover, this year's haddock quota would have been fished. If the hon. Gentleman had spoken to fishermen, he would know that there is any amount of young haddock in the North sea. ICES confirms that. The quota has not been taken because the technical measures are working, and the same applies to whiting. There is no longer a threat to those species. The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), sitting directly behind the hon. Gentleman, is nodding vigorously. The hon. Gentleman should probably consult the chairman of the all-party fisheries committee before making any more hostile interventions.
Let me now say something with which all will agree. For the first time, the Scottish Executive have this year published a full analysis of the impact of fishing as an industry on the Scottish coastline. I use the word "industry" deliberately. It is not just a question of the catchers or the processors, many of whom are my constituents and those of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran); it is a question of the whole infrastructure that the industry supports. I am thinking of all the industries associated with a fishing community—netmakers, ropemakers, joiners, electricians and harbour staff. The research tells us that not 20,000 or 25,000—as has been suggested in the past—but 40,000 people owe their employment to the Scottish fishing industry, directly or indirectly.
§ Angus Robertson (Moray)
Will my hon. Friend confirm that those statistics show that Moray's fishing 850 communities figure largely? A representative of the processing sector in Buckie wrote to me this morning saying:For prawns, all the land based jobs are completely reliant on our Scottish fishery … and there are no other feasible import supplies available; thus the processing industry would collapse.That is indeed a dire warning. Does my hon. Friend agree that we need more than just assurances from the Government—that we need delivery to prevent any such collapse?
§ Mr. Salmond
My hon. Friend is right about the Moray fishing communities, which feature heavily on the list, as do my constituents and those of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael). As might be expected, those areas depend heavily on fishing.
Perhaps the most surprising feature of the Scottish Executive's statistics is the information that while Fraserburgh is the most fishing-dependent community in Europe-55 per cent. of employment there depends on fishing—the second most dependent travel-to-work area is Annan, in the south-west of Scotland. The figures relate to the whole coastline of Scotland. Even Motherwell contains many fishing-dependent jobs. It should be understood that this is not just a matter for the north-east or for Shetland, but for the whole coastline and, indeed, for Yorkshire and parts of Northern Ireland. In many communities the concentration of fishing jobs is enormous. That is why we are desperate to convey the message that the industry should at last be treated as a political priority. It has never been treated in that way before, by Tory or by Labour Governments.
Some of today's debate has been quite jocular. The Minister and I have known each other for a long time, and many Members here are veterans of fishing debates. The consequences of what we are discussing, however, go far beyond any badinage exchanged across the Chamber. The Minister speculated on the existence of a conspiracy theory in which fishermen and fishing communities believed. It is not necessary to have a crystal ball to find a conspiracy theory; it is necessary only to look at the background—at minutes and Scottish Office correspondence released last year under the 30-year rule. According to a Scottish Office paper,In a wider UK context of European policy, they"—the Scottish fishermen—must be regarded as expendable.The hon. Member for Great Grimsby looks surprised, but that applied to negotiations that took place when Edward Heath was Tory Prime Minister.
The same pattern of fishing interests being traded away has been repeated time and again over the past 30 years. However, I disagree with Members who say that it is all to do with the CFP, or to do with not being part of the CFP, or to do with national control or with zonal control. I think the underlying issue relates to the extent to which fishing is seen as a priority. Spain, within the CFP, regards fishing as a priority. If the fishermen are in trouble, they will hold up the European Council until hell freezes over, or engage in a variety of other techniques to save the fishermen. It is the same as what President Chirac does for his farmers. Norway, outside the CFP, makes fishing a major priority and negotiates, year after year, a firm deal with the other fishing 851 countries. I think that what really matters is the underlying question of the extent to which fishing is seen as a priority.
Such political arguments will not be the stuff of the next few weeks and months, which will prove vital for our fishing communities. I will not have an independent Scotland in the next few months. The Conservative party will not be able to withdraw from the CFP or from Europe over the next few months. The Liberals will not be able to have zonal management over the next few months. All we can do over the next few weeks and months is to ensure that the major part of our industry in Scotland will be allowed to survive.
We point out in our amendment that many of the changes proposed for the CFP are quite positive, but academic. They will be entirely academic if there is no industry to benefit from them. That is why we must have from the Minister not just the indications he gave at the outset, but two absolute assurances. First, we need an assurance that fishing will not be traded away yet again in European negotiations, as it has been progressively over the last 30 years. Secondly, we need an assurance that the Prime Minister—who is not engaged mentally at present, given the reply that he gave to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland yesterday—will start to become engaged in this topic, as President Chirac would be engaged if French fishermen were currently under the cosh.
It is simply not acceptable to the Scottish fishing industry for the Prime Minster to be banging the phones for George W. Bush and concentrating on the international situation, rather than banging the phones for the fishing industry in its hour of need. We want to hear from the fisheries Minister that at last, at this moment of total crisis, the fishing industry will be given the priority it deserves, and that every level of Government, including the Prime Minister, will ensure that a viable future is negotiated for our fishing communities, rather than another sell-out.
§ Mr. Alan Campbell (Tynemouth)
It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), and I certainly do not regard the jobs of fishermen in my constituency, or elsewhere, as expendable. Although there has been some light-hearted banter in the Chamber, this is a serious matter—indeed a critical one for people in our constituencies. We are talking not about fishing communities and glory days of the past—I, too, am a student of history, and I listened with interest to the comments from those on the Opposition Benches—but about the livelihoods of hundreds of people who go to sea or work onshore in our constituencies. That is why I welcome the Minister's inviting us to discuss these matters with him soon, and to access scientific advice. He will know that we are in regular contact with fishermen in our constituencies. They are a source of information, and we take that very seriously. We seek to give voice to their concerns in the Chamber, and that is what I intend to do.
In turn, of course, the Minister is our strong voice in Europe, and he is widely acknowledged as offering a strong voice for the UK fishing industry, including the 852 area of North Shields, which I represent. If the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes) had ventured north of Hartlepool, the fishermen of North Shields would doubtless have told him that. However, the Minister will have to draw on all his strength and experience, because one gets the feeling that this is a critical period. A little over a year ago, we were debating in this Chamber the effect on cod fishing of the closure of areas of the North sea. What appeared then to be extremely draconian measures were accepted, albeit reluctantly, as necessary. Twelve months on, we are now told that matters are worse than that, and that in effect we are faced with the closure of the cod fishery. Even if that proves to be 80 per cent. true, rather than 100 per cent., for many people that will amount to much the same thing. I should point out that the fishermen in my constituency do not rely exclusively on cod for a living. Nevertheless, they tell me that they oppose, and worry about the effects of, a closure, which they consider a step too far.
Perhaps naively, I considered last year's cod recovery programme as an unprecedented coming together of scientific advice and the experiences of fishermen, and I hoped that that would continue. It was a shock to many fishermen—and indeed to me—to find that that position is now diverging. Scientists are taking a much more radical position that is increasingly at variance with the views and the experience of many fishermen. In view of that divergence and the sense of near-crisis in the industry, we need cool heads. We need a rational assessment—as far as is possible—of the reality of the existing situation, and we need to ensure that we work through each of the available options.
The fishermen whom I represent are concerned. They wonder why the cod recovery programme has so far not been allowed to take effect, and whether the evidence has been properly evaluated. They tell me that some of the evidence on which recent pronouncements were made may actually date from two years ago—before the measures that we debated were put in place. Of course, since then areas of the North sea have closed. I am told that cod catches are down by about 50 per cent. Some 170 boats from the UK fishing fleet, and 70 boats from the Danish fleet, have been decommissioned. We await the assessment of the impact of changes in mesh sizes, and the lessons learned from the Irish sea cod recovery programme.
My understanding was that the plan was never intended to be a short-term fix. People talked about a period of four to five years, and many of the fishermen that I have talked to think that the plan needs to be in place for a decade.
§ Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many Spanish fishing vessels have been decommissioned?
§ Mr. Campbell
I am unable to give the hon. Gentleman that information, but I do know that my fishermen are not concerned about the Spanish accessing their area of the North sea. They are not worried greatly by that, because it does not happen often.
Much was made in the previous speech about the cod spawning stock biomass, but fishermen tell me that evidence exists to suggest that it is in fact increasing. 853 That is not to say that there is no problem, or that it is not at a very dangerous level. I am certainly not arguing that we should not take the scientific advice seriously. The fishermen whom I talk to are not saying that either, but what they do want is to ensure that we raise important questions before we take action that we may come to regret.
We should appreciate that the science involved is an inexact one, and it deserves to be challenged. That also allows us to take a perhaps longer-term view. I do not want to appear flippant, but if we are told that lawns are going to disappear from English gardens in the next few decades, who is to say that cod will not disappear from the North sea because of environmental and climate change? It would be a sad irony indeed if we were to adopt these draconian measures, and if fishermen were to go out of business, only for cod stocks to fail to recover in the North sea.
I said that fishermen in North Shields do not rely on cod for their livelihoods, but that does not mean that this issue does not matter to them. They rely heavily on prawns, and the provisional figures suggest that the news on that front is acceptable. Even if the changes do not amount to wholesale closure, any change in the cod regime in the North sea will affect the prawn fisheries that my fishermen rely on. It will exacerbate an existing trend—the divergence of effort towards the prawn fisheries. I listened to the comments suggesting that all seemed to be well with the prawn fisheries, and I hope that that is so, but I am told that the season started late this year, and that the prawns are smaller than might have been expected. I emphasise the point that the prawn fishery is not a bottomless pit. I trust my hon. Friend the Minister to ensure that he does everything that he can to protect that fishery.
Various options have been suggested, including limiting effort. Let us not go down the route—either now or during the wider reform of policy—of a one-size-fits-all situation. We need to look at what works, and where it works. If we adopt a tie-up scheme or a decommissioning scheme for people who have had enough and want to leave the industry—I make this point as much for the Treasury's benefit as for the Minister's—the Treasury will eventually have to face up to the resulting cost. Either it will have to give moneys directly to the fishing industry, or pick up the cost afterwards.
These are extremely difficult circumstances. None of the available options will be pointless, and none will come cheap, but we should consider them fully before taking a step too far.
§ Mr. Alistair Carmichael (Orkney and Shetland)
I understand through the usual channels that if we all speak for five minutes, we might all be allowed to speak, so I shall try to limit my remarks. I agreed with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said, so I shall try not to go over the same ground.
It is almost a clichè to say that there is a crisis in the Scottish fishing industry and the white fish fleet in particular. However, it is difficult to overstate the severe difficulties that it faces, as we have heard today. In the past 12 months, some 150 vessels have been removed 854 from the Scottish white fish fleet through decommissioning, losses and sinking, transfers to the pelagic sector, and sales outwith the United Kingdom. This is the second year of the cod recovery plan, and, as others have said, the target of 30 per cent. year-on-year improvement in cod stocks was very nearly met last year when, according to ICES figures, there was a 27 per cent. improvement in the spawning stock biomass for cod.
I do not wish to dwell on what was said by Conservative Members, but I have to say that I take issue with the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton). She suggested that those of us who promote reform of the common fisheries policy do so because we are prepared to be European before defending our industry. That is a misrepresentation of the situation.
§ Mr. Carmichael
The hon. Lady says that that is not what she said. I accept that, but it is what I understood her to say. In the previous two renegotiations of the CFP, which happened under a Conservative Government, we said that the policy would not work. History shows us to have been correct, and we are saying the same again now. Our belief about what is best for the fishing industry is shared by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, the Shetland Fishermen's Association, Shetland Oceans Alliance and the Orkney Fisheries Association.
I welcome the Minister's assurances that proper account will be taken of the experience with the larger mesh sizes, the square mesh panels and the painful decommissioning that we have gone through in Scotland. I merely observe that the fact that it has taken until now to get to the point at which the Minister says that he will take the matter to the European Commission tells us something about the process in which we are engaged. Surely any process that is truly scientific and objective would look for information, so why do we have to drag the Commission, kicking and screaming, to see the benefits of what we have done.
I was in Brussels last week. I spoke to John Farnell who, unless I am more out of touch with Scottish politics than I thought, is not the Scottish fishing Minister. I also spoke to other EU officials. They were not encouraging. The Minister is not going to find it easy. I wish him well: there has been talk about the fire in the Minister's belly, but I hope that it is well stoked up when he argues the case for the Scottish industry. I shall give him a bottle of Highland Park whisky if he can pull it off.
The right hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) spoke about the need for hon. Members to argue for conservation in their constituencies. It is a pity that he is not in his place, as I regard that attitude as misguided and patronising. Fishermen in my constituency are well aware of the need for conservation. Their livelihoods, and the livelihoods of some 30 per cent. of the population of Shetland, depend on having fish stocks. That is what is at stake for us.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Andrew George) spoke about the need for rollover. There is some merit in that argument, but monitoring will present a difficulty. Again, I return to the need to get scientists out of their offices and off their research vessels, and onto commercial fishing vessels. That is where they will see the reality of the situation.
855 Much has been said about industrial fishing, but time does not permit me to do more than add my weight to what the Minister said. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan said that the important thing was not whether the CFP should be reformed or abolished, but the passion and significance that we attach to the fishing industry. The future viability of the whole community in Shetland depends on the Minister getting it right next month. For that reason, I want him to display passion and vigour in the negotiations, and in that way save our white fish fleet.
§ Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney)
I have attended nearly all the fisheries debates since I came to the House, as Lowestoft has always been an important fishing port. Records show that, until recently, about 10 per cent. of the fish landed in England was landed at Lowestoft. However, if things carry on as they are it will not be long before I shall have no special reason to come to these debates.
A year ago, there were nine beam trawlers in Lowestoft, and an inshore fleet of about 40 vessels. That was a historic low, yet in August this year the beam trawler company, Colne Shipping, ceased fishing. All we have now is about 18 inshore vessels. The end of Colne's was the end of generations of fishing in Lowestoft, and we have no more deep-sea trawling any more. The subject is very emotive, and last August was a very depressing month in Lowestoft's history.
Sad to say, it has taken the end of Colne's to make us all recognise what has happened. I fear that, even now, hon. Members still do not accept what is happening. Representatives of Colne's told me when the news was announced that they could not make fishing pay any more. They said that that was because they could not catch even the fish to which they had quota entitlement. Prices were poor, and the fuel costs incurred from vessels having to go to the Norwegian sector to try to catch the fish were too high.
The company was supported by the Government. In February, my hon. Friend the Minister authorised a payment of £650,000 for the decommissioning of two vessels. That huge sum was more than any company in my constituency has ever received. The Government were right to award that money in a bid to support the company through a difficult time, but the money lasted only six months. That shows how costly it is to try to buy our way out of the problem.
Was that good value for the taxpayer? The question is unavoidable. I supported the decommissioning award made to Colne's, and urged my hon. Friend the Minister to grant it. However, will the taxpayer consider paying £650,000 for six months to be a good deal?
I have referred to the Lowestoft example as a way of showing that the CFP has failed. We all know that. It has certainly failed Lowestoft. All the meetings, debates and activity in Europe have left us without deep-sea fishing, and with only a small remnant of our inshore fleet. However, that means that reality has now taken a grip. People in Lowestoft remember being able to walk across the harbour by means of the fishing boats all docked side by side, but that was the problem: all those boats plundered too many fish for too long.
856 The story of the CFP is simple. Every year in this debate, the scientific figures are produced to show that quotas must be cut. Understandably, fishermen claim that they will lose their jobs and politicians like me argue on behalf of their fishermen, but what happens? Each year, the issue is fudged. Each year, we get compromises, and then we pay the price.
That is happening again this afternoon. People have claimed that that there is something wrong with the scientific advice and that we should just ease off a bit. I can understand that, but the lessons are clear. What has been remarkable in Lowestoft this year is what the fishermen have said to me. Inshore fishermen have told me that the scientists were "right, horribly right". The representatives of Colne's told me, when the news was announced that the company would have to end its fishing interests, that we should have taken notice of the scientists all along, and that the problem started more than 30 years ago, before we ever got involved in the common fisheries policy.
The lesson that fishermen in Lowestoft have learned is to stick to the science. I think that our Government try harder to do that than those of many other member states. We know the desperate state of the stocks; we can argue that this year some year classes are a little better than the previous one, but it is all way below the safe biological limits. Whatever figures the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) has, the scientists know that they are all below the safe biological limits. One year can be a bit better than the other but we are still in deep trouble.
§ Mr. Blizzard
I will not give way.
The first year that I was elected, fishermen told me that there were more plaice than the scientists thought. I went to see my hon. Friend the Minister, who sent the scientists out again. They came back saying that that was right and we increased the plaice quota. I wonder now whether that was a good thing to do—it was at the time, but now the plaice are in a diabolical state.
If we want to conserve fish, we will have to take draconian measures for a long time, possibly for five years. Scientists tell me that the fleet will probably have to be reduced by half. On the other hand, we could give up altogether and just let the fishermen fish it out—that might be no worse than what we are doing because what we are doing is not very successful.
Whatever we do, how do the fishermen survive? Will there be an industry left to catch anything once we have taken those draconian measures, assuming, of course, that there will not be an environmental problem that prevents recovery? It is very difficult. I have told the House how much it cost to keep the Lowestoft trawler fleet alive. I asked an inshore fisherman how much money he would need to help him because he cannot catch cod. He said £500 a month. That is not a lot but it adds up to £6,000 a year and £30,000 over five years for one fisherman on one boat. If we multiply that by 18 fishermen in Lowestoft, it comes to a lot of money to keep them going. I can understand people wanting financial support—I would like them to have it. However, we are talking about a lot of money and we would simply be tying up the same number of fishermen 857 who will go out and catch the fish when it is all over. I think that decommissioning makes more sense than tying up. [Interruption.] I realise that I have been talking for six minutes, as I am reminded from a sedentary position, but there have been grosser abuses of parliamentary time this afternoon.
We have been through a difficult period but, as I said earlier, I do not think that it has been caused by fishermen who carry out long-lining, which is a method of catching fish. Will my hon. Friend exempt the long-liners from whatever restrictions are imposed regarding cod, as I do not think that they devastate the stocks?
We have been through this devastation before, 30 years ago when the herring disappeared and now they are back in our waters. Fishermen can catch herring, but they cannot get much for them—they tell me they get £20 for 10 stone. Could someone from the Department work with my local authority, using money from fisheries regeneration, to see whether we can do something about marketing herring? People in this country have forgotten about herring for generations. If we could get a price for herring, there would be a future for some of the fishermen.
The common fisheries policy has failed and we are trying to reform it. The new policy looks very familiar because no one could think of anything very different to do. The biggest flaw is enforcement. There has always been cheating, if that is what we call it. As the quotas have become tighter and things have got more difficult for the fishermen, so the cheating has increased. Probably only half the amount of fish landed is recorded. In some European countries there are other layers as well. We have all been to places and seen the small fish; we have all seen evidence of illegal nets. The cheating in some other countries is worse than it is here, but I am told that we have started to catch up. Unless there is enforcement, there is no point in having a policy. Ministers such as ours can sit up all night at the meeting in December, but if the rules are broken nobody is better off. If we cannot enforce them, we might as well give up.
The fish know no boundaries, and we must have a common approach. I do not have a great deal of faith that the approach will work but I wish my hon. Friend the Minister all the best for what will inevitably be an all-night session in December. We could not have a better representative, and I think that other Front Bench spokesmen are probably relieved that he is going and they are not.
§ Mr. Peter Duncan (Galloway and Upper Nithsdale)
Given the time that was available, it is regrettable that Opposition Members who represent substantial fishing communities have been restricted to three or four-minute speeches at the end of the debate. I want to make a few observations on some issues that relate to my constituency, which covers fishing communities in Kirkcudbright, Newton Stewart and the Machars. Indeed, some of my constituents have paid the ultimate price within the past couple of years in the pursuit of a commodity that some of us take for granted.
I am concerned about the complacency that has been shown in this debate. The industry, especially in Scotland, takes sustainability immensely seriously. When one speaks to some of those business men—for 858 that is indeed what they are—one finds that they are part of family businesses that have been established for many generations. Could any commercial entity have a greater concern about the sustainability of fish stocks than those family businesses? I come from one myself so I am well aware that sustainability means preparing for future generations.
I am only too well aware that such family businesses have played their part during the past year. The decommissioning scheme was more than 100 per cent. oversubscribed in Scotland. A £25 million fund was available, but £50 million could have been paid out. There were 215 applications—a third of the fleet wanted to leave the industry. Those people have played their part.
When I spoke to fishermen this week, they expressed frustration that no cognisance was being taken in the current review of what they had already delivered. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) mentioned increased mesh sizes. No cognisance was taken of that; nor of the introduction of "windows" for the release of small stock. There can be no frustration greater than that of fishermen who know that there are problems and are doing what they can to address sustainability, while the Commission seems to take no account of what they are doing.
The key point is that fishermen want to be involved in the process. They want to know what is going on, yet they feel excluded. Why has the two-volume report been available for two weeks, but has apparently not yet been provided to the Commission? Why are fishermen excluded from the negotiations? I can see no reason why fishermen's representatives could not attend as part of the delegations. That would do much to reassure fishing communities, which have sustainability at heart, that there is nothing to hide.
I suspect that there is something to hide, however. For example, on the west coast of Scotland the historic deep-sea fishing grounds have been carved up in a backroom deal in which Scotland accounts for only 2 per cent. of the available catch, while 80 per cent. goes to Spain and the rest is carved up between Ireland and France—[Interruption.] I accept the Minister's correction: 80 per cent. goes to France and the rest is split between Ireland and Spain. It was a political stitch-up. The ultimate sting in the tail is that the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency is expected to police that dirty deed.
§ Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries)
I begin by informing the House that I made the Speaker's office aware of the fact that I would arrive late for the debate.
I appreciate that many hon. Members have spoken about the fishing fleets that operate out of their constituencies. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) mentioned Annan, which is my home town. It no longer has a fishing fleet; its fishermen fish out of Kirkcudbright.
Two major employers in Annan, however, are fish-processing businesses, and during the past couple of days I have spoken to management at both factories. On the surface, it seems that there will be little impact on those businesses. Both developed from cottage industries over many years. One started out producing smoked salmon and the company has now expanded to 859 give regular employment to between 700 to 800 people. At this time of year, the number increases to between 1,100 and 1,200 to cope with seasonal work for the Christmas and new year period.
The company uses very little white fish and I was assured that the current proposals would have no impact on their business. The only thing that might happen would be a small rescheduling of certain processes and the introduction of alternative product lines.
The other company, which was known in the town for many years as nothing more than "the shrimp factory", is now run by Young's Bluecrest, whose main product is breaded scampi. Clearly, it has serious concerns because although it has been stated that stocks of nephrops are perfectly healthy, if the Council of Ministers decides fully to implement the scientific recommendations of ICES without heeding any other arguments about nephrops, the business could close down. The issue at stake here is by-catch, the problem identified by my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn) and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Redcar (Vera Baird).
My point to the Minister is that he has an important job to do, as others have said. It is important to take heed of much of what the scientists are saying in the ICES recommendations, but it is important also that scientists do not overstep the mark with certain elements of the recommendations. I hope that my hon. Friend will, as hon. Members from all parties have requested this afternoon, put up a fight for our UK fishing fleets.
§ 5.1 pm
§ Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute)
It is clear that if the Commission's recommendations were implemented, they would have a devastating effect not only on our fishing communities but on communities throughout the country that rely on fishing-related industries such as processing. However, the main impact will be felt by fishing communities, many of which are by their very nature isolated, so other sources of employment are hard to find.
Let us be clear: even with the Commission's latest proposal for an 80 per cent. cut, the recommendations would still lead to the complete shutdown of the work of many fishing communities, and that shutdown would be permanent. The vessels, skills and infrastructure would all disappear, so even if the industry were allowed to resume fishing in 10 or 12 years, there would be nothing in place to allow it to reopen. If the Commission's proposals are accepted, the results will be permanent. That is how important it is that the Government argue vociferously for Britain in negotiations.
This is not only a case of arguing vociferously, however. The Minister has been advised to adopt the tactics of the Deputy Prime Minister, but it is no good arguing and then losing the qualified majority vote; deals have to be done. I agree with what the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) said about deep-sea trawling off the west of Scotland earlier this year. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation supported the scientific advice, but in the 860 secrecy of the Council of Ministers meeting a deal was done and Britain lost. This time we want the Government to negotiate seriously, and to succeed.
Much has been said about the scientific evidence, and I echo what the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) said. The ICES figures show an increase of well over 20 per cent. in cod stocks this year compared with last year, and that, with the technical measures and the decommissioning that has taken place, indicates that the cod recovery plan is working. We should give it time to see whether it will work, rather than taking draconian measures now.
The proposed measures for nephrops are particularly ridiculous. I have written answers from the Minister saying that his officials agree that the cod by-catch from nephrops is insignificant. The fact that the Commission's recommendations are in complete disagreement with British scientists shows how discredited they are.
§ 5.4 pm
§ Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine)
I want to reinforce the message that the industry will die if fisheries are closed, and even at 80 per cent., the industry has no future. That is why it is crucial that the right decisions are made this time.
The hon. Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) expressed worry about some of the figures. However, the figures for haddock come from the scientists' research, and the stock-spawning biomass has not been as high since 1971, so this is not just a minor blip; there is a reasonable stock-spawning biomass for haddock. The problem for the industry is that media coverage concentrates on cod, but that represents only between 10 and 12 per cent. of the business, and to close down the whole business for the sake of between 10 and 12 per cent. seems a draconian and risky measure.
It would far more effective to take the research on board. After all, the Scottish Executive did not spend £1 million for nothing. To have all that research available but not to use it at this crucial time would be a ridiculous waste of that investment, so the research must inform the debate, which is about getting the balance of risk right and recognising the fishing industry's valuable role in the community.
I welcome the Minister's commitment to consider what happens in the Norway negotiations. The fishermen certainly find that the Norwegian side seem to have far more direct input into those negotiations. Resolving that issue is crucial to building up good will.
I want to reinforce the crucial message about European negotiations that has come from this debate. The Prime Minister may have been briefed, but he did not show that when he answered a question yesterday. However, having been briefed, he must understand the complexity of the situation. With qualified majority voting, we need him to say, in quiet negotiations at the highest levels, that the proposals on the table cannot make progress unless people recognise that although the whole United Kingdom does not depend on what happens in those negotiations, vital communities within the United Kingdom do. In particular, the north-east of Scotland is highly dependent on the fishing industry, and a positive outcome is required.
§ 5.6 pm
§ Mr. Hayes
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I wish to respond to the debate. I shall be brief because this has been a long debate and I want to give the Minister time to sum it up.
I shall start by picking up the point about consensus made by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George). The genuine concern on both sides of the House has been reflected in many contributions from hon. Members of all political persuasions during this important and well argued debate, which has taken place in an appropriate, serious spirit that has reflected the genuine concerns in the affected communities. The hon. Gentleman was right to say that we must co-operate in defence of those communities to every possible degree.
I wish to emphasise the point that was made by the hon. Members for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid), for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran), for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and various others—that those communities are rooted in the fishing industry. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) gave the figures for the employment dependence throughout Scotland. I, too mentioned those figures in my earlier contribution, and they are shocking. One begins to realise that those communities will be truly devastated if the scale of reductions envisaged in the proposals is put in place. I hope that every Member is moved by that realisation, and it should inspire them to the sort of action called for by a variety of people
Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) and the hon. Members for Banff and Buchan and for Great Grimsby, made points about the science. They questioned not the scientists' intent, but whether the whole scientific picture had been laid before us.
We should consider the latest information that has become available as a result of the changes that have taken place. We should consider not simply the technological changes referred to by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby, but the changes in the size of the fleet. People cannot project with any accuracy and assess the proposal's likely impact unless that projection is measured against the current state of the industry—a criticism that has been made time and again. Hon. Members on both sides of the House have made the point that we do not distrust scientists per se, but we want the science to be holistic, comprehensive and balanced.
The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith) said that even with 80 per cent. left, the industry would not be viable. He is right to emphasise that, because a partial restriction will not lower the mortgages or the cost of living of those fishing families, nor it will lower the fishing industry's fixed costs. The insurance costs and other permanent costs are not affected by the fact that the fishermen will not go to sea for two or three days a week, or whatever the compromise happens to be. The hon. Gentleman made an important point about the real impact of these changes, even if the Commission has suggested some sort of compromise.
I have no doubts about the Minister's integrity or his knowledge of these matters. I said that at the beginning of the debate, and it has been reflected in the spirit of the 862 debate, and in comments from Members on both sides of the House. As my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton) said, however, this is now a political matter, and it is recognised as such by the fishing industry as well as by politicians. It is political because it is about trading. It will involve trading, dealing, negotiations and all the other things that happen when such matters come before European Ministers. I do not doubt the integrity of our Minister, but I doubt his power to do anything about that.
Unless the matter is dealt with at the very highest level of Government, and the Prime Minister takes a personal and genuine interest and gives fishing the priority—several hon. Members used that word—that many of us believe it deserves, it will be traded away as if it were nothing. I am not prepared to let that happen without a fight, and without speaking very loudly about it in this Chamber and elsewhere. That is the challenge to the Minister. He knows that I believe that the only way forward is to leave the common fisheries policy. I will say that time and again. Given that that will not happen while the current crisis is being resolved, we legitimately demand—not on our behalf but on behalf of those hard-pressed fishermen, their families and their communities—that he fight for them with every sinew in his body, and that his boss, the Prime Minister, show legitimate concern and real passion in fighting for them, too.
§ Mr. Morley
With the leave of the House, Madam Deputy Speaker, I shall wind up the debate.
We have heard speeches from the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran), the hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George), my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Lawrie Quinn), the hon. Member for Congleton (Ann Winterton), my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Campbell), the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael), my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard), the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan), my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Brown), the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr. Reid), and the hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine (Sir Robert Smith). That demonstrates the concern of many Members about the Commission's proposals on fishing. These debates are serious, because Members participate on the basis of their knowledge, and of representing their constituencies and the fishing industry. I very much respect that.
Looking for some of the solutions will be difficult. We should be clear that the Commission is deadly serious. There were one or two comments about scares; the idea is that a big scare leads to a compromise, which can be brought back and demonstrated as a success. We have been moving away from that for some years in the Fisheries Council. I, for one, have not been arguing against the science when it is justified, and the Commission has been very serious about its proposals and increasingly reluctant to move from them. What I have not heard tonight—I put this mildly—is solutions 863 from the Opposition for the problem. It is difficult—and it will continue to be difficult. I appreciate the fact that the hon. Member for Congleton had some solutions; I am not sure that they were workable, but nevertheless, she had some solutions.
On some of the points that were raised, however, I should make it clear that I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Waveney that the science is paramount. I am genuinely sorry about what happened to the Colne fleet. As he knows, I have met those people many times. He still has an important fish market in that area, however, and an important inshore fleet with long-liners, and I recognise and take note of the fact that that is a very selective fishery.
I must correct what the hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings said about the Irish sea recovery plan. There have been some encouraging signs, although we must be cautious about the science. I shall talk about that in a moment. I should make it clear that the closed area was closed to all vessels, including beamers, from whatever country. It is not the case that we were closing it to our vessels while other vessels could go in—and that is not what I would want to see. The hon. Gentleman played the blame game a bit. He implied that other countries were responsible, and that we were not, but we must face up to our responsibility.
As for the impact on other countries, Germany and Sweden have already announced that they support the moratorium and will tie up their fleets. For other fleets, the Commission is calling for a 40 per cent. cut in effort for beam trawling. That will have an enormous impact on Holland and Belgium, and on France, which also has an important cod fishery. The implications are therefore not just for the UK. Other countries are facing difficult issues, too.
It is certainly true that the North sea mixed fishery is of dominant importance to the UK. The proposals for cod stocks—which, along with those for the mixed fishery of haddock and whiting, are in the greatest difficulty—will impact on us, and I do not dispute that they will impact on us in a big way. That is why Members have been right to raise their concerns.
However, I have some reassurance about effort. We are now making our calculations about what might be the effort reduction on the baseline figures to which the Commission is working. We have probably reduced effort by 12 per cent., so one can deduct that figure from whatever the Commission proposes. It may well be possible to increase it.
However, I want to be honest with the House about our thinking. I am not prepared to argue for reductions that I cannot justify on the science. I will argue for reductions, but only if there is a strong case. The Commission has heard it all before. Many countries will demand reductions of what it proposes. They will demand more quota, and the Commission has become cynical about that. However, the UK has been successful because we have been able to justify our position on strong scientific grounds. That is why the position on nephrops has changed. Because of our research, and the evidence, the Commission now recognises that there is no case for closing the nephrops fishery. The by-catch is tiny. That important change demonstrates that we can make progress.
864 I will write to the regional development agencies in England to alert them about the potential impacts on local areas. I agree with the hon. Member for Congleton that the way in which the issue of kilowatt days has been presented in the Commission as a blunt tool that will be used to force people into decommissioning by bankruptcy is not acceptable. We will not go along with that proposal. There may be merits in considering a kilowatt days effort regime, but that involves talking with the industry and making the proposals work.
I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth that this is a time for cool heads; it is not a time for panicking. The industry should distinguish between what might look good and produce lots of excitement, and what will produce results. I am concerned with getting good results based on good science and sustainability. However, I will work closely with my colleagues in the Scottish Executive and the devolved Administrations. I recognise the points that hon. Members have made. I shall certainly stand up for the fishing industry of this country, but I shall do so on the basis of good science and sustainable management, while recognising the justification of the case that steps must be taken to deal with the severe decline in fish stocks.
Hon. Members will be coming to see me privately soon, and I will be able to go into the science in more detail then than I can in one minute now.
§ It being four hours after the commencement of business, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER, put the Question necessary to dispose of the business at that hour, pursuant to Order [18 November].
§ Question put, That the amendment be made:—
§ The House proceeded to a Division.
§ Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal)
I ask the Serjeant at Arms to investigate the delay in the No Lobby.
§ The House having divided. Ayes 32, Noes 232.866
|Division No. 005]||[5:18 pm|
|Allan, Richard||Kennedy, rh Charles (Ross Skye &|
|Beggs, Roy (E Antrim)||Moore, Michael|
|Beith, rh A. J.||Öpik, Lembit|
|Brooke, Mrs Annette L.||Price, Adam (E Carmarthen &|
|Calton, Mrs Patsy||Pugh, Dr. John|
|Campbell, rh Menzies (NE Fife)||Robertson, Angus (Moray)|
|Carmichael, Alistair||Russell, Bob (Colchester)|
|Chidgey, David||Salmond, Alex|
|Cotter, Brian||Stunell, Andrew|
|Doughty, Sue||Weir, Michael|
|Ewing, Annabelle||Williams, Hywel (Caernarfon)|
|Foster, Don (Bath)||Williams, Roger (Brecon)|
|George, Andrew (St. Ives)||Wishart, Pete|
|Harris, Dr. Evan (Oxford W &|
|Abingdon)||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|Heath, David||Mr. Alan Reid and|
|Holmes, Paul||Sir Robert Smith|
|Adams, Irene (Paisley N)||Armstrong, rh Ms Hilary|
|Ainger, Nick||Atkins, Charlotte|
|Allen, Graham||Bailey, Adrian|
|Anderson, rh Donald (Swansea E)||Baird, Vera|
|Barnes, Harry||Francis, Dr. Hywel|
|Battle, John||Galloway, George|
|Bayley, Hugh||Gardiner, Barry|
|Beard, Nigel||George, rh Bruce (Walsall S)|
|Benn, Hilary||Gerrard, Neil|
|Bennett, Andrew||Gilroy, Linda|
|Benton, Joe (Bootle)||Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)|
|Best, Harold||Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)|
|Betts, Clive||Grogan, John|
|Blizzard, Bob||Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)|
|Borrow, David||Hall, Patrick (Bedford)|
|Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)||Hamilton, David (Midlothian)|
|Bradshaw, Ben||Harris, Tom (Glasgow Cathcart)|
|Brennan, Kevin||Havard, Dai (Merthyr Tydfil &|
|Brown, rh Nicholas (Newcastle E||Rhymney)|
|Brown, Russell (Dumfries)||Hesford, Stephen|
|Bryant, Chris||Hewitt, rh Ms Patricia|
|Buck, Ms Karen||Hill, Keith (Streatham)|
|Burden, Richard||Hodge, Margaret|
|Byers, rh Stephen||Hoey, Kate (Vauxhall)|
|Cairns, David||Hood, Jimmy (Clydesdale)|
|Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)||Hope, Phil (Corby)|
|Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)||Howarth, rh Alan (Newport E)|
|Caplin, Ivor||Howarth, George (Knowsley N &|
|Casale, Roger||Sefton E)|
|Caton, Martin||Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)|
|Cawsey, Ian (Brigg)||Humble, Mrs Joan|
|Challen, Colin||Hurst, Alan (Braintree)|
|Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)||Hutton, rh John|
|Chaytor, David||Illsley, Eric|
|Clapham, Michael||Irranca-Davies, Huw|
|Clark, Mrs Helen (Peterborough)||Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)|
|Clark, Paul (Gillingham)||Jones, Helen (Warrington N)|
|Clarke, rh Tom (Coatbridge &||Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)|
|Chryston)||Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)|
|Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)||Joyce, Eric (Falkirk W)|
|Clwyd, Ann (Cynon V)||Kelly, Ruth (Bolton W)|
|Coaker, Vernon||Kemp, Fraser|
|Coffey, Ms Ann||Kidney, David|
|Cohen, Harry||King, Andy (Rugby)|
|Coleman, Iain||King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green &|
|Connarty, Michael||Ladyman, Dr. Stephen|
|Cook, rh Robin (Livingston)||Lazarowicz, Mark|
|Cooper, Yvette||Lepper, David|
|Corston, Jean||Leslie, Christopher|
|Cranston, hon. Ross||Levitt, Tom (High Peak)|
|Crausby, David||Liddell, rh Mrs Helen|
|Cruddas, Jon||Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)|
|Cyer, John (Hornchurch)||Love, Andrew|
|Cunningham, Jim (Coventry S)||Luke, Iain (Dundee E)|
|Dalyell, Tam||McAvoy, Thomas|
|Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)||McCartney, rh Ian|
|David, Wayne||McDonagh, Siobhain|
|Davidson, Ian||McDonnell, John|
|Dean, Mrs Janet||MacDougall, John|
|Dhanda, Parmjit||McIsaac, Shona|
|Doran, Frank||McKechin, Ann|
|Dowd, Jim (Lewlsham W)||Mactaggart, Fiona|
|Drew, David (Stroud)||McWilliam, John|
|Drown, Ms Julia||Mahmood, Khalid|
|Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth||Mahon, Mrs Alice|
|Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)||Mallaber, Judy|
|Ellman, Mrs Louise||Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)|
|Etherington, Bill||Marshall, David (Glasgow|
|Field, rh Frank (Birkenhead)||Marshall-Andrews, Robert|
|Fisher, Mark||Meacher, rh Michael|
|Fitzpatrick, Jim||Meale, Alan (Mansfield)|
|Flint, Caroline||Merron, Gillian|
|Flynn, Paul (Newport W)||Michael, rh Alun|
|Foster, Michael (Worcester)||Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)|
|Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings||Moffatt, Laura|
|& Rye)||Morgan, Julie|
|Foulkes, rh George||Morley, Elliot|
|Mountford, Kali||Spellar, rh John|
|Mullin, Chris||Starkey, Dr. Phyllis|
|Murphy, Jim (Eastwood)||Stevenson, George|
|Naysmith, Dr. Doug||Stewart, David (Inverness E &|
|Norris, Dan (Wansdyke)||Lochaber)|
|O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)||Stewart, Ian (Eccles)|
|Olner, Bill||Stinchcombe, Paul|
|O'Neill, Martin||Stoate, Dr. Howard|
|Palmer, Dr. Nick||Strang, rh Dr. Gavin|
|Picking, Anne||Taylor, rh Ann (Dewsbury)|
|Pickthall, Colin||Taylor, David (NW Leics)|
|Pike, Peter (Burnley)||Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)|
|Plaskitt, James||Thomas, Gareth (Harrow W)|
|Pollard, Kerry||Tipping, Paddy|
|Pond, Chris (Gravesham)||Todd, Mark (S Derbyshire)|
|Pound, Stephen||Touhig, Don (Islwyn)|
|Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham||Trickett, Jon|
|Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)||Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)|
|Prosser, Gwyn||Turner, Dr. Desmond (Brighton|
|Quin, rh Joyce||Turner, Neil (Wigan)|
|Quinn, Lawrie||Twigg, Derek (Halton)|
|Rammell, Bill||Tynan, Bill (Hamilton S)|
|Reed, Andy (Loughborough)||Vaz, Keith (Leicester E)|
|Reid, rh Dr. John (Hamilton N &||Vis, Dr. Rudi|
|Bellshill)||Wareing, Robert N.|
|Roche, Mrs Barbara||Watson, Tom (W Bromwich E)|
|Roy, Frank (Motherwell)||Watts, David|
|Ruddock, Joan||White, Brian|
|Salter, Martin||Whitehead, Dr. Alan|
|Sarwar, Mohammad||Wicks, Malcolm|
|Savidge, Malcolm||Williams, rh Alan (Swansea W)|
|Sedgemore, Brian||Wilson, Brian|
|Sheerman, Barry||Wray, James (Glasgow|
|Shipley, Ms Debra||Wright, Anthony D. (Gt|
|Smith, rh Andrew (Oxford E)||Wright, David (Telford)|
|Smith, rh Chris (Islington S &||Wright, Tony (Cannock)|
|Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)|
|Smith, John (Glamorgan)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)||Joan Ryan and|
|Soley, Clive||Mr. John Heppell|
§ Question accordingly negatived.
§ Main Question put and agreed to.
§ That this House takes note of European Union documents No. COM (02) 181, Commission Communication on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy ("Roadmap"), No. COM (02) 185, draft Council Regulation on the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources under the Common Fisheries Policy, No. COM (02) 187, draft Council Regulation amending Regulation (EC) No. 2792/1999 laying down the detailed rules and arrangements regarding Community structural assistance in the fisheries sector, No. COM (02) 190, draft Council Regulation establishing an emergency Community measure for scrapping fishing vessels, No. COM (02) 186, Commission Communication, a Community Action Plan to integrate environmental protection requirements into the Common Fisheries Policy, and No. COM (02) 180, Commission Communication, a Community Action Plan for the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and supports the Government's objectives, which are to work for a Common Fisheries Policy that is environmentally and economically sustainable, to strengthen the Common Fisheries Policy's regional dimension, to increase industry involvement in decisions on fisheries management and conservation and improve the dialogue between fishermen and scientists, to increase the integration of environmental concerns into fisheries management, to introduce clearer procedures for responding quickly to conservation emergencies, to confirm the 6 and 12-mile access restrictions on a permanent basis, to continue relative stability (including the Hague Preference) and retain the Shetland Box, to ensure greater effectiveness and consistency in control and 867 enforcement of European Union requirements, while attempting to simplify the burden of control on fishermen, to improve the value for money of third country agreements and their coherence with development and environmental objectives and to promote the effective operation of Regional Fisheries Organizations.