§ Lord Stoddart of Swindon
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Further to the answer of the Earl Howe (Col. WA48), what economic and social benefits, including any improvement in employment opportunities, will accrue to the British people from the decision to spend £28 million of British taxpayers' money to reduce British fishing opportunities so that an additional 40 foreign fishing vessels may fish British fishing grounds in the so-called "Irish Box"; and
Further to the answer of the Earl Howe (col. WA48), how the long-term prosperity of the British fishing industry will be improved by spending an additional £28 million of taxpayers' money to decommission British fishing vessels so that 40 Spanish vessels can fish in the "Irish Box"; and how many British fishing jobs will be lost as a result of such decommissioning.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe)
As explained in my previous answer, the decommissioning scheme is a means of enabling us to meet the targets for the reduction in fleet capacity which we have accepted as part of the common fisheries policy. By contributing to a better balance between fishing capacity and available fish stocks this expenditure will help to provide a more viable long-term future for the remaining UK fleet and related industries, as well as compensating vessel owners choosing to leave the industry. Because the decommissioning scheme operates through a tendering system in order to obtain the best value for money for the available funds, it is not possible to say in advance how many bids will be approved or what the employment consequences may be for the crews concerned.
The access arrangements applying to Spanish vessels fishing in western waters from 1 January 1996 are entirely independent of the decommissioning scheme. UK fishing opportunities remain unchanged and our ability to take our quotas is explicitly protected under the terms in the agreement. Spanish vessels will not therefore be replacing any part of our fleet.