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White Fish Authority And Herring Industry Board

Volume 986: debated on Thursday 19 June 1980

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is yet able to make a statement on the future of the White Fish Authority and the Herring Industry Board.

The Government have issued this week a consultative document about the structure and functions of a statutory authority to replace the existing authority and board. Copies of the document have been placed in the Library of the House and are available in the Vote Office.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that in any restructuring of the board, better representation will be given to those who go to sea to fish? Will he also ensure more sharply defined terms of reference so that there will not be unnecessary duplication with existing scientific institutions and Government Departments?

All these matters are highly relevant and many are contained in the consultative document. I shall consider very carefully all the representations that are made.

Has the Minister noticed a statement reported in The Times today, from a French Minister, that France will hold up the Prime Minister's EEC budget settlement until a fisheries agreement that is satisfactory to France has been concluded?

I attended the meeting of the Fisheries Council and the Agriculture Council this week. We had constructive discussions. The French Minister was present when these matters were discussed and he never once raised that question, either in the Council or outside, in discussions with us.

Can my hon. Friend give an assurance that the new authority that is to be set up will not be faced with a situation in which British fishermen are subsidising overseas fish consultancies by the White Fish Authority?

Whether this takes place at all is a matter of subjective judgment. I commend some of the work of the White Fish Authority in its consultancy work abroad, but I agree with my hon. Friend that such work should be financed by those sources that benefit from it and not from within our own industry.

Is the Minister saying that the mutterings of the French Fisheries Minister in the corridors of Luxembourg were meaningless and signified nothing? If that is so, will he go beyond that and say that we have given nothing away at all and that we will give nothing away at all right up to the end of the calendar year? Will he stand by the fishing industry?

The Government make it absolutely clear that the common fisheries policy must be settled on its merits. That was the position after Brussels and it is still the position. What the French Minister says is up to him.