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Fishing Industry

Volume 940: debated on Wednesday 30 November 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.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statements made by my right hon. Friends during the debate in the House on Monday on EEC draft regulations.

Will the Minister accept the best wishes of the Tory Party for the meeting next week in Europe to protect the interests of the British fishing industry? Will he make it clear to our EEC partners that the latest package is completely unfair and that even if it were fair it would be totally unworkable? Will he also make clear that unless we receive a just settlement the British Government will be compelled to take unilateral conservation measures within an exclusively controlled 50-mile limit?

Under normal circumstances I should decline the best wishes of the Tory Party, but in these special circumstances, of the almost complete unanimity that now exists in the House on this point, I accept them. This matter was raised by Opposition Members on Monday and complete assurances were given by the Government on all the points.

Does the Minister realise that he will have the complete backing of all hon. Members from East Anglia in his battle on 5th December?

I know that the hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Fell) takes a keen interest in these affairs, although I did not see him in the House on Monday. I can think of no better combination than the mixture of pleasant persuasion and the ability to "put the boot in" that exists in my right hon. Friends.

Is the Minister aware that, while he has the full support of the Opposition for his fight next week, he should also address his mind to the system of quotas that might be involved in such an agreement? Is he aware that it is desirable that an agreed system of quotas should be achieved, apart from agreement on amounts, and that he would also have our full support on that?

This is a difficult matter. We cannot work outwith a framework without some quota system, but the hon. Gentleman was referring to the way that it should be imposed, whether by licensing or restriction of effort, or a combination of both. We have given an assurance that we are aware of the importance of obtaining agreement on these points.