HC Deb 03 February 2004 vol 417 cc622-4
24. Mir. Alistair Carmichael(LD) (Orkney and Shetland)

When the Strategy Unit will publish its report on the UK fishing industry. [152267]

The Minister for the Cabinet Office and Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Mr. Douglas Alexander)

The strategy unit's fisheries project was announced on 27 March 2003. The aim is to develop a long-term strategy for the sustainable future of the UK marine fishing industry. The report will be published shortly.

Mr. Carmichael

I must tell the Minister that I am disappointed—as are many of my constituents—that we still have no date for the publication of this overdue report. If he or the researchers preparing the report listened to people in fishing communities, they would know that those communities are in crisis. We need a strategy that goes beyond tinkering around the edges of the common fisheries policy—and we need it soon. Can we have the report soon?

Mr. Alexander

That is exactly why the strategy unit has taken that long-term view. As the hon. Gentleman is interested in the unit's emerging thinking on the matter, I remind him that a conference was held in Newcastle on 1 October last year. The results were published on the website. With great respect to the hon. Gentleman, however, I suggest that he address his concerns to one of the members of the steering board—the Scottish Executive's Liberal Democrat Minister for Environment and Rural Development, who has responsibility for fisheries.

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster(Lab) (Hastings and Rye)

I congratulate my hon. Friend on his work with the strategy unit, which is so important for fishermen on the south coast. The unit has not yet reported, so will my hon. Friend look at what is happening on the south coast? Cod numbers are enormous there, but the fish cannot be caught because they are considered to belong to the North sea.

Mr. Alexander

The fishing industry supports about 11,200 people in England, so it is not a matter of concern only to hon. Members with Scottish constituencies. I shall be happy to pass on my hon. Friend's remarks to my hon. Friend the Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.