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Fish Quotas

Volume 12: debated on Thursday 12 November 1981

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take action regarding the legality of the European Commission's claims to impose fish quotas on member States; and if he will make a statement.

Her Majesty's Government reject the claims of the European Commission.

I accept that, but will the Minister of State secure a declaration from the Commission at the earliest opportunity that never again will it seek to impose quotas on member States in the way in which it attempted to do so at the July Council?

The hon. Gentleman should be clear about that matter. I have endeavoured to explain to him by letter and in the House that all that the Commission made was a claim. It has not attempted to impose it. We have rejected it and other Governments have also rejected it. As to doing anything more than that, the situation has been made absolutely plain.

Leaving aside the question of whether the claims made by either side are legal, does the Minister believe that as a result of the long, continuing close-knit connections with other Ministers in the EEC over the past few months, there is any chance of coming to a settlement, not only on this item, but on others connected with the common fisheries policy?

I hope that the hon. Gentleman has been encouraged—I am sure that he has—by the fact that in a number of major areas, such as conservation, marketing and certain third country agreements, considerable progress has been made. There has been a willingness to make progress in those areas. I do not for one moment belittle the problems before us, such as those concerning quotas and access, but the fact that we have managed to narrow them down to a number of crucial issues is an element of progress, and I hope that we are supported in that.

Surely the point is that the Commission must desist from making that claim, otherwise the threat will hang over other negotiations.

The hon. Gentleman might look at progress made in meetings since that time. The Commission made that claim and that was rejected not only by us but by other Governments at the July Council. It has made no attempt to repeat it either at the September or October Councils. In those circumstances, the hon. Gentleman is trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.