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Reciprocal Fishing Rights

Volume 974: debated on Thursday 29 November 1979

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the current state of negotiations with regard to reciprocal fishing rights with countries outside the EEC.

Consultations are in progress between the Community and a number of countries outside the EEC.

Is the Minister aware that there is serious anxiety in the offshore fishing industry at the lack of fishing grounds, due to the withdrawal of permission to operate within those grounds? Does he agree that there is an urgent need for negotiations to be completed at an early date in order to allow offshore fishing fleets to concentrate their efforts in those areas instead of returning to the inshore fishing areas, which are being decimated because of the shortage of external fishing grounds?

I note what my hon. Friend says. The closure of certain opportunities in Norway has caused some of the present difficulties. What is happening in Norway and elsewhere is in the broad interests of conservation. Conservation is the same whether it is in our waters in those of other countries.

How will the Minister ensure greater equity in the reciprocal fishing agreements with third party countries, especially the Faroes?

There is a specific problem with the Faroes not only because of the quantity of fish involved in the agreement but because of the particular technical conditions which the Faroese lay down. I am pursuing that at present.

Will my hon. Friend ensure that when he is listening to the representations of the big battalions he will not forget the interests of the small fishing communities which depend on small-scale fishing, particularly in the East of England?

In view of all the problems in the fishing industry I am glad that the inshore fishermen do not seek reciprocal arrangements in other waters. However, I am alive to the interests of the small, locally-based fishermen.

Will the Minister make it clear that no amount of reciprocal fishing is substitute for a 12-mile exclusive limit and a dominant preference for our fishermen in the 12-mile to 50-mile band? In view of the continuing anxiety in fishing ports this weekend, will the Minister again make it clear that there is no question of his right hon. Friend's attempting to secure a satisfactory deal on the Community budget in return for concessions in the fisheries negotiations?

Speculation about Dublin is only in the hon. Gentleman's mind. As has been made clear by my right hon. Friends and by myself on many occasions, fishing rights are not up for trading. They stand on their own merits and will not be traded in Dublin this week or at any other time.