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Pelagic Fisheries

Volume 87: debated on Thursday 21 November 1985

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asked the Minister of Ariculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of the review of restrictive licensing of pelagic vessels.

A consultative paper on the review of restrictive licensing for the pelagic fisheries was circulated to industry organisations on 4 October 1985. When all those who wish to do so have expressed their views, Fisheries Ministers hope to reach decisions on future licensing arrangements before the end of the year.

Various people in the industry will be relieved that a statement will be made before the end of the year, because the uncertainty has not been good for the industry. Will the Minister accept that if any move is made to increase the number of freezer trawlers available for the pelagic fisheries, that will be viewed with great concern by those who are interested in conservation and particularly by people in my constituency, who will be adversely affected?

The hon. Gentleman will realise that the reason why we set up this investigation was do deal with all these issues. No decisions will be made without taking very seriously all the points that he has put forward.

With regard to conservation, has my hon. Friend seen the report in this week's Fishing News that two of the constituents of the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) are buying a giant purser from Norway which has capacity in its hold for 1,100 tonnes of fish? Does he agree that it is pointless to buy a huge boat such as that if the owners then try to gain access to stocks that are under pressure?

I am sure that my hon. Friend will accept that there is considerable argument in this area, and that it was therefore sensible of the Government to make sure that we had the full facts before making our decision. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman may feel that it has taken some time, but it is better to get the answer right than to get a rushed answer wrong.