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Foreign Fishing Boats

Volume 19: debated on Sunday 4 April 1982

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he proposes to take steps to prevent part of the United Kingdom total allowable catch being taken by foreign fishing boats registering in the United Kingdom.

My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade, who is responsible for registration, is seeking to ensure that the owners of certain fishing boats are properly entitled to claim British registration and that their vessels fully comply with the rules that such registration imposes.

Does my right hon. Friend realise that that answer will be warmly welcomed? Will he assure the House that he will continue to press the Department of Trade for something to be done about this practice? Is he aware that the fishing industry is greatly annoyed that foreigners should so abuse our rules and regulations? The British public also do not like foreigners coming in and playing our rules so unfairly.

This is a matter about which I am deeply concerned. The past year saw a growth in this practice, particularly involving former Spanish vessels. In addition to what my right hon. Friend is already doing, a review is taking place of the Merchant Shipping Act 1894. A consultation document has been issued and the fishing industry has been invited to comment on it. I shall be working closely with my right hon. Friend on this matter, which needs to be dealt with resolutely.

Has the Minister taken note of the gross excess of the catches over some of the quotas that were informally agreed last October and of the particular countries whose boats were responsible for the most serious of those excesses?

I have and I regard as thoroughly unsatisfactory the way in which some of the proposed quotas have been exceeded by particular countries. The Government have made their view clear on this to the Commission, and this underlines the fact that if we are to have effective conservation we must have it on a basis that is agreed and enforced internationally.