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Common Fisheries Policy

Volume 932: debated on Thursday 19 May 1977

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2.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on progress in renegotiating the common fisheries policy.

9.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current position of the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy.

I refer the hon. Members to the statement I made yesterday.

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on obtaining international recognition of conservation zone in the North Sea and elsewhere, but is he aware that this country's distant-water industry is virtually killed and that the inshore industry is likely to follow the same path unless we get an exclusive zone of 50 miles? These views were put strongly to Mr. Gundelach at Hull recently. What action is the Minister taking?

The whole question of the fishing industry is vital to this country. That point was made to Mr. Gundelach not only on his visit to Hull but by a deputation from Scotland which saw him a few days ago. We have reiterated that fact ourselves and intend to go on doing so, particularly at the Fisheries Council meeting which has been called for 27th June.

Can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that at the next Council meeting the Government intend to stand firm on the need for an exclusive fishing zone of 50 miles, because this is so important for the inshore fishing industry of this country, not least in Devon and Cornwall?

We have made our position clear and I hope that at the Council meeting next month we shall be able to put on the table absolutely definite proposals. I have no doubt that they will be fully in accordance with the wishes of the fishing industry.

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the simple and straightforward demand for extending control over a 50-mile limit would have the overwhelming support of both sides of the House and the country as a whole? Does he recognise that were it not for the fact that the Conservative Party has taken us into the EEC, control would have been extended to 200 miles?

I do not want to go over old battles at this stage. It seems that there are new battles ahead. However, my hon. Friend has put forward an important point which must be recognised again and again. What we must do is to claw back something that was given away. That is a difficult and tough task to achieve, but it is an achievement that we hope we shall be able to realise.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that we welcome the frequent reports that he makes to us on these matters and that we appreciate what he is doing? Is he aware that the Scottish fishermen who went to Brussels at the beginning of the week are boiling with rage over the negative attitude of the Common Market towards what they regard as their just claims? Does he recognise that their temper is not helped by the report today that Norway is cutting the quotas available for United Kingdom vessels, thus imposing even further strains and difficulties on the Scottish fishing fleet?

I thought that the Scottish fishermen behaved with absolute distinction. Everyone commented on the tremendous way in which they presented their case. Even if they are boiling with rage, they put their case reasonably. I pay my tribute to them.

The issue that the hon. Gentleman has raised in respect of Norway is representative of the whole difficulty of the position in which we now find ourselves. As regards distant-water fishing and the fact that we are not in negotiation alone, clearly that is a matter that has to be taken into account when we come to review fishing within the waters that are under our sovereignty and jurisdiction.

Will the right hon. Gentleman consider putting before the House of Commons before he goes to Europe the proposals that he intends to put before the Council of Ministers? Is he aware that the House would be interested to know whether his proposals will contain any reference to the closing—perhaps permanently—of some of the breeding grounds and the banning of methods of fishing that are simply plain greedy?

The points inherent in the right hon. Gentleman's question are extremely sound. They are points that we have made and will continue to make. Certainly I should wish to give the House as clear an indication of what I have in mind as it is possible to give. I shall do my best to ensure that the House is kept fully informed.