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Common Fisheries Policy

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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15.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the way in which other European Economic Community countries are operating under the common fisheries policy.

We are concerned that all member States should honour their obligations under the common fisheries policy.

Does my hon. Friend share the deep concern of the fishing industry over the fact that in the first three months of this year fish imports rose by more than 50 per cent., and by 70 per cent. in value? Is he aware that fish imports are running at about £400 million a year? Is that not absolutely disastrous, not only for the fishing industry, but for our balance of trade?

I share my hon. Friend's concern. Earlier this week my right hon. Friend and the Secretary of State for Scotland met representatives of the fishing industry. They agreed to meet again in July to assess the position.

Is the Minister aware that the number of fishing vessels lost at sea more than doubled in 1970–80 compared with 1960 to 1970? Is he further aware that there has been an even greater loss of life? Is that due to pressure because of the way in which the fishing industry operates? Will he hold an inquiry into the industry?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, questions on safety are not for my Department, but for the Department of Trade. What the hon. Gentleman has said is a view that has been expressed elsewhere, but it is difficult to assess precisely whether that view is correct.

Is it not scandalous that fishermen in other Common Market countries can, with impunity, evade many of the conservation measures introduced in the Common Market, yet under a nonsensical Common Market rule hard-pressed fishermen in my constituency are prevented from using a cover net for their nets, which is meant only to preserve them from damage? Will the Minister look into that important matter?

I think that it is only in our waters that the hon. Gentleman's constituents fish. The rules in our waters are applied in exactly the same way to fishing boats from any nation. I shall consider the specific point made by the hon. Gentleman.

Does the Minister accept the truth of the television film to which he referred earlier, which showed Continental fishermen—not only the French—poaching herring freely and then selling them with impunity in Continental ports, without encountering any difficulties from the harbour authorities?

Hon. Members should not exaggerate. The film showed pictures of boxes of fish, and verbal allegations were made about the type of fish and where they were caught. As I have said already, that film has been sent to the Commission. I hope that the Commission will answer the questions put to it by those who sent the film.