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Common Fisheries Policy

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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5.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the present state of negotiations within the Council of Fisheries Ministers concerning a common fisheries policy.

18.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of the renegotiation of the European Economic Community common fisheries policy.

10.

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects progress to be made in negotiations on the common fisheries policy.

Since the statement which my right hon. Friend made to the House following the last Council of Fisheries Ministers on 29 January we have had bilateral consultations with the fisheries Ministers of other countries of the Community and with the Commission.

I appreciate the considerable efforts that my hon. Friend is making to secure a properly renegotiated common fisheries policy, but will he bear in mind the forceful representations by the Scottish fishing industry in the last week about massive increases in fish imports? Will he work to secure within the EEC. before renegotiation, increases in the normal external import tariffs on both frozen and fresh fish?

I acknowledge the great difficulties over imports. I assure my hon. Friend that reference prices and the question of tariffs being reduced are under review in the Commission, with the hope of changes coming into force at the beginning of July.

Is it not apparent that little of the fishing industry will be left by the time the negotiations are concluded? Does not that fact, coupled with the blatant disregard by other countries of conservation regulations, strengthen the case for further unilateral action by the British Government?

It strengthens the case for even more resolution to achieve a proper settlement of the common fisheries policy. Effective legal control over illegal fishing by any nation is lacking. Under a proper renegotiated common fisheries policy, that is what we can achieve.

Even if we achieve a properly negotiated common fisheries policy, how will the Minister ensure that the rules are kept, because under the present regime the rules are broken day after day?

We enforce the rules in our waters up to 200 miles, without discrimination against ships of any nation. The problem is that it is up to the individual nation to apply the rules. Doubts are expressed about whether other nations apply the rules as vigorously as we do. Under a Community regime the regulations would have the force of Community law and would not be left to the individual nation to enforce.

Does my hon. Friend agree that, vital as it is to sort out the future common fisheries policy, it is equally vital to ensure that our EEC partners keep the present policy? Is it not disgraceful, and almost incredible, that herring illegally caught by French fishermen should be auctioned illegally by auctioneers who are employed by the French Government? What will my hon. Friend do to sort out that scandalous cheating under EEC regulations?

My hon. Friend is basing his argument on a television programme. As he knows, the French authorities have undertaken prosecutions against some of their fishermen.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it would be fatal for any Minister to come back empty handed after the next negotiations on the CFP? What are the basic terms on which we shall stand?

We have made considerable progress on a number of issues in the last year, from a position where no progress whatever had been made. We have made clear that, among other things, a number of matters crucial to us, such as exclusive access, a proper share of quotas and effective conservation, must be agreed.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that he will resist any proposal, as suggested by the German Minister of Fisheries in the last week, that vessels from all States can come right up to our coastline?

We have made it clear, as has the Labour Party, that we must have an adequate exclusive zone for our ships and a further degree of preference beyond that. We stand behind that, and we have made our position abundantly clear to our colleagues in Europe.

Is the Minister aware that it appears that a common fisheries policy that is satisfactory to Britain is being delayed? Does he agree that the resistance of the French, the Dutch and the Danes is proving sufficient to ensure that during the delay many of our ports will close and our fleets sink? What prospects are there of further financial aid for the fishing industry until the CFP policy objectives are met?

As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the common fisheries policy issues are complex and require a great deal of preparation. From the bilateral discussions, I believe that most of our European colleagues are prepared to work constructively towards a resolution. The industry is encountering problems, but only six weeks ago we introduced a scheme on the lines requested by the industry, and involving a sum of money of the size that was asked for by the industry and by the Labour Party.