§ 36. Mr. Harris
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to ensure that European Community agreements on fishing are not flouted by other member states.
§ Mr. Curry
I refer my hon. Friend to the answer that I gave him on 22 June at columns 748–49 on measures to deal with quota-hopping. Since then the House of Lords Appellate Committee have ordered that interim relief should be granted to applicants in the Factortame case. The relief is restricted to the requirement on owners and shareholders to be resident and domiciled in this country and affects only 53 vessels. The requirement that vessels should be managed and their operations directed and controlled from the United Kingdom remains. The registrar of shipping will ensure that only eligible vessels are registered. To date 12 of the 53 vessels have qualified.
As I said in my earlier reply, the question whether the fishing vessel registered requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 are compatible with Community law was still to be considered by the European Court of Justice. We will argue strongly before that Court that these provisions are right and necessary to protect the interests of our fishing communities.
To resume fishing against United Kingdom quotas, all these vessels must also obtain a licence. Licensed vessels will be required to make regular visits to United Kingdom ports where it is expected that they will take on supplies land fish and change crews and thereby create some economic activity of benefit to the local community. Such visits will also enable officers of the sea fisheries inspectorate to board and inspect the boats to ensure that the conditions of their United Kingdom fishing licence are met and national and EC fisheries regulations are complied with. The inspectorate will continue to take firm action against any fisherman who flouts the law.