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Fishing Industry

Volume 930: debated on Wednesday 27 April 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will make a statement on the latest situation in the fishing industry.

The economic situation of the fishing industry continues to improve. The overall value of Scottish landings to 15th March was 52 per cent. above the same period in 1976, despite an overall reduction in fishing effort.

Discussions continue within the European Community on a number of issues relating to the common fisheries policy. The EEC Commission is expected to be bringing forward proposals on the internal régime shortly and we shall be continuing to press for satisfactory resolution of the critical issues outstanding.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the proposals he mentioned are likely to give only a 12-mile exclusive limit plus quotas and historic rights within those 12 miles? Will he confirm that the Government would find such proposals totally unacceptable? Will he tell the House when he intends to make the ungutted haddock order?

The order will probably be available to the House today. It is to be signed by my right hon. Friend as well as myself, and my signature is already on it.

We have repeatedly made it clear in discussions with other Ministers in the Community that any acceptable internal régime of a common fisheries policy must contain a considerable preference for coastal States.

Will the right hon. Gentleman inform us why he is answering this Question and not leaving it to the Minister whose responsibility it normally is? Is he prepared to lift the order that bans drift netting for salmon around the Scottish coast? Does he not agree that a totally unjust situation prevails when Scottish fishermen are the only fishermen in the EEC who are banned from such a practice?

I answered the Question myself because I have just returned this morning from Luxembourg, having yesterday engaged in fishery discussions. I thought that it might help the House, but I could have been wrong about that. I shall look into the other matter.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that those who are interested in the future of the Scottish fishing industry are very much behind the stand that he is reported to have taken in Luxembourg yesterday? In the absence of getting arrangements satisfactory to the Scottish fishing industry, will he confirm yesterday's report that the United Kingdom Government will consider taking unilateral action if necessary?

We were dealing yesterday with herring fishing, particularly the North Sea herring ban, which lasts until the end of the month and which was extended yesterday for only one more month. I believe that this is basically unsatisfactory.

We have made some progress in that there will be a meeting on 16th May to deal with herring fishing as a whole as well as herring fishing off the West Coast of Scotland. We are anxious that this subject should be discussed and the industry wants it taken into account, because it fears a diversion of fishing from the North Sea to the West Coast.

We made a little progress yesterday, but I made clear that I considered that other nations in the Community were not treating the matter urgently enough. In the absence of satisfactory progress at our next meeting, we must reserve the right to look at this matter nationally.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he will have the fullest support of this side of the House in taking a strong stand on this matter? Is he aware that the operation of the quota system is becoming daily less satisfactory as a means of control? Will he therefore stand firm on a basic minimum requirement of a 50-mile exclusive zone for Scottish fishermen?

I am grateful for what the hon. Gentleman said about support. I cannot add to what I have already said about zones. The Commission will be bringing forward revised proposals for an internal régime sometime next month, and we shall be putting our own proposals at that time. If the Commission's proposals are not substantially different from those of last December, the Government have no intention of accepting them.