§ Mr. McQuarrie
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the outcome of the European Council of Fisheries Ministers meeting held on Wednesday 3 December.
§ Mr. Gummer
I have been asked to reply.
Together with my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 3 and 4 December, under the Presidency of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
I am very glad to report that, pending the receipt of an opinion from the European Parliament, the Council reached a common position, subject to reserves by three member states, on a presidency compromise in respect of the Commission's proposals on fisheries structures. The proposals covered a range of measures designed to improve the structure and associated facilities of the fishing fleet over the next five years.
This marks a major success for the presidency. It means that the British fishing industry will be able to claim 50 per cent. grants for modernisation of boats. There will also be effective measures for reducing the catching capacity of the Community fleet and these fit well with the conservation measures agreed by the Council this year.
The package included provision for grants for the construction and modernisation of fishing vessels and permitted the rates of grant to be supplemented by national Governments up to the levels applying under the previous scheme. There is also provision for laying-up grants, grants for exploratory voyages, aids to aquaculture and assistance to improve port facilities. These measures, if finally approved, will be of considerable importance to the fishing industry.