asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will establish a commission to carry out an independent inquiry into the potential for the Wash fisheries and to report to him on the means for exploiting that potential.
No, Sir. My fisheries scientists have only recently surveyed and reported on the mussel stocks in the Wash. Accordingly, any further general inquiry would not be justified.
Does the Minister agree that as the Wash is the largest natural shell fishery in Western Europe it is appalling that the constant reduction in catches and in the number of people employed, coupled with increasing imports from the European Community, should offer such a bleak future for the industry? Will he ask the Sea Fish Industry Authority to look again at the problem with a view to developing a programme of partnership between the Government and local industry to enable local fishermen to compete with others in the Community?
I agree that the Wash is a very important shellfish area. The hon. Gentleman must have missed my reply, as I said that we had carried out a survey of the area and scientists had examined it, which is evidence of the importance that we attach to it. The report will now be discussed with representatives of the local fishing industry and with the Eastern Sea Fisheries Committee. I hope that as a result of that we shall see further improvements for this important fishery.