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Fisheries Conservation

Volume 984: debated on Thursday 15 May 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what unilateral conservation measures are enforced by the United Kingdom so far as fishing in United Kingdom territorial waters is concerned.

A comprehensive regime of national conservation measures is in force within United Kingdom fishery limits, including territorial waters.

Following the question asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), may I ask whether, now that the dust has settled, my hon. Friend will take action on the evidence that was produced in the World in Action film to stop illegal fishing in our waters by our Common Market partners?

To be fair, the film did not say that there had been illegal fishing by our Common Market partners in our waters. We police our waters and apply the regulations regardless of the nations from which the fishing vessels come. The tape of the programme referred to by my hon. Friend has been submitted to the Commission in Brussels. I shall await with interest—as will my hon. Friend—the reaction of the Commission to the allegations that were made in the programme and if they are found to be right, the action that is proposed by the Commission.

Since the Minister has conceded that the fishing industry is in a perilous condition, and since he has referred to the Government's recent announcement of a subsidy, may I ask how much of that money has so far been disbursed?

Money under the aid scheme to the fish producers' organisations is already going to those organisations. We are still considering tenders for exploratory voyages, and after discussion we hope in the near future to announce that some of the tenders have been accepted. I acknowledge the problems facing the fishing industry. One of the biggest problems is uncertainty about the future, which is the result of not knowing the outcome of the common fisheries policy negotiations. That is why we are pursuing these negotiations with resolution, and I trust that we shall receive the support of the Opposition.

The Minister has twice mentioned the film that was shown in France. The main part of the film deals with a large amount of herring caught in British waters anr re-exported to this country. What steps will the Government take to stop such fish coming into the country? Fishing for herring is banned in United Kingdom waters.

If my hon. Friend has evidence that the fish were caught in British waters, I hope that he will supply it to me. I saw the film, but recall no evidence—not even an allegation—that the fish were caught in British waters. If my hon. Friend has evidence, I ask him to tell me about it. Hardly a week goes by without some vessel—sometimes our own, sometimes foreign—being caught and prosecuted for infringing regulations in our waters. Within our resources we shall continue to carry out effective policing.

Have the Government taken up with the French Government the inadequacy of the supervision of landings of fish on French piers—a position quite different from that prevailing in the United Kingdom? Does the Minister deny that fish are being caught illegally in British waters by Community fishermen and re-exported to this country?

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would show more support for the efforts of the British Government to ensure that we get effective policing. At the moment it is up to individual nations to ensure policing within their own countries. We are seeking to get the force of international law applied across the Community in relation to the regulations. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman did not hear my previous answer. I can only repeat that we enforce the regulations within our waters up to 200 miles. The system is not always perfect, but we apply the regulations on a totally non-discriminatory basis regardless of the nationality of a fishing vessel.