asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress is being made towards a common fisheries policy.
Agreement has been reached on a revised marketing regime and on important aspects of the external regime. There has also been agreement in principle on a comprehensive range of conservation measures. Useful progress has been made in certain other areas, including control and structure. The important issues of access and quotas, however, remain to be resolved. We are continuing our bilateral discussions on access in an effort to reach agreement on acceptable arrangements. On quotas, we are maintaining our position that any settlement must fully reflect the special needs of our fishing industry.
Will my right hon. Friend give a categoric assurance that if our European partners try to push through by a majority vote a common fisheries package that is detrimental to the British fishing industry, the Government will take every step possible to protect our fish and our waters?
I can give my hon. Friend that assurance. Given the major importance of the national interests involved for many of the member States, a CFP settlement should be, and can only be, achieved by consensus. That is what my right hon. Friend and I will try to achieve.
Will the Secretary of State set a time limit to the discussions on access? Until a settlement is reached it is impossible to go ahead with any regional schemes either for protection of local interests or for conservation. Will he set a time limit on these apparently endless negotiations?
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's anxiety about the time that this is taking, but perhaps he would agree that it might be counter-productive to set a time limit on the discussions. We could have had an agreement long before now if we had been prepared to accept one that was not acceptable to our fishing industry. Therefore, we do have to be patient and ensure that we fight on until we reach an agreement that is acceptable to our fishing industry.
Now that the Council of Ministers has ruthlessly set aside the British veto on the common agricultural policy, how can the Secretary of State possibly hope again to resist the Council of Ministers, which has been equally ruthless over the common fisheries policy, where there is already agreement and where we have no effective veto?
As the hon. Gentleman will know, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has already discussed with our Community partners what lay behind the strange decision taken last week. That will have to be pursued collectively with the other member States. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that it is the Government's view, and that of most of the other States as well, that a common fisheries policy is a matter of major national interest.
Can my right hon. Friend explain why the Liberal Party and the Labour Party have blocked the Salmon Fisheries (Protection) (Scotland) Bill on recent Fridays, when it would do a great deal for the conservation of fish stocks in Scotland?
That is an extremely puzzling development. I can throw no more light on it than my hon. Friend. Fortunately, the Labour Party and the Liberal Party are not included as part of my responsibilities in Scotland.
Does the Secretary of State agree with the statement of his right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food last Wednesday that we were twice within sight of a fisheries agreement that would have been broadly acceptable to the industry had it not been vetoed by other countries?
I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that that could have been so, but at that time we were doing everything possible to arrange the agreement by consensus. That is exactly what we shall try to do from now on.
Will the Secretary of State assure the House that, as we get nearer 31 December, when the 10-year period for the negotiation of the common fisheries policy runs out, we shall not have a repeat of what happened last week, and that the Government will resolutely oppose any attempt to set aside the Luxembourg compromise, as happened last week?
I assure the hon. Gentleman that the Government will resolutely do that.