asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether the Fisheries Ministers have completed their review of the restrictive licensing arrangements for pressure stocks; and if he will make a statement.
The Fisheries Ministers have thoroughly reviewed the restrictive licensing arrangements for pressure stocks which were originally introduced in 1984 for an initial three-year period. We have taken full account of the views expressed by the main organisations representing the fishing industry and of our experience of managing United Kingdom fisheries within the framework of the common fisheries policy as well as of the prospects for the years immediately ahead so far as these can be discerned.Ministers have concluded, with the broad support of the fishing industry, that, given the likelihood of continuing pressure on the United Kingdom quotas for at least the 32 stocks currently designated as pressure stocks, the system of restrictive licensing for pressure stocks should continue and that certain steps should be taken to ensure that the system imposes greater restraints that hitherto on the growth of effective fishing capacity. We are, however, conscious that measurement of effective fishing capacity is a complex matter, involving a variety of factors and reflecting differences between different categories of vessel, and that no reliable measures of effective fishing capacity applicable to the United Kingdom fleet are currently available. We have accordingly decided to set in hand, in consultation with the industry, further work on this aspect.In the meantime, we have decided that the further restriction on the transfer of pressure stock licences by reference to vessel length already introduced last November in respect of the area VII whitefish pressure stocks should now be made applicable to pressure stocks generally. Consequently, as from today, pressure stock licences will not be transferable from a vessel under 80 ft. in registered length to a vessel of 80 ft. or over. This restriction will apply in addition to the existing restriction on transfers from vessels under 40 ft. to vessels of 40 ft. or over and will thus create a system of three length bands for the purposes of pressure stock licensing. Consideration will be given on a case-by-case basis, in the light of the overall objective, to cases where the immediate application of this additional restriction would cause hardship as a result of financial commitments already entered into.We have decided that, further to the measure announced earlier this year to withdraw pressure stock licences from inactive vessels, provision needs to be made on a continuing basis to prevent the licences of inactive or obsolete vessels being made available for transfer and thus increasing the effective capacity of the fleet. The details of such a provision will be the subject of further consultation with the industry.When the restrictive licensing arrangements were introduced in 1984, provision was made on an exceptional basis for persons who were at that time "between boats", including owners of shipwrecked vessels, to be granted pressure stock licences for replacement vessels; provision was also made for owners of under 10m vessels with a record of pressure stock fishing in 1983–84 to be able to obtain a pressure stock licence for a replacement vessel of over 10m and under 40 ft. We consider that these two derogations, which were essentially of a transitional nature, have now served their purpose and should cease with effect from 1 January 1988.We have also reviewed the additional special licensing restrictions, introduced in July 1985, applying to beam trawlers in area VII and have concluded that, in view of the continuing pressure on the quotas, particularly for sole and plaice in area VII, these restrictions should remain in force. We have, however, concluded that to assist owners of smaller beam trawlers in need of replacement a strictly limited element of relaxation can be allowed without jeopardising the overall purpose of the restrictions. We will therefore permit beam trawlers replacing existing licensed vessels in the under 80 ft category to exceed the registered length of the existing vessel by a margin of up to 10 ft, provided that the replacement vessel itself remains under 80 ft: to permit this relaxation to be effective the tonnage restriction will not apply in these cases, but the engine power of the replacement vessel will continue to be restricted to that of the existing vessel.The additional special licensing restrictions applying to purse-seiners and freezer trawlers in the pelagic fisheries will remain in force on the basis announced earlier this year.