To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to put into effect the changes to the fishing vessels grant scheme which he announced in his statement of 20 December.
Following my announcement last December that the present vessel grant scheme served to distort rather than encourage sensible investment by vessel owners I am proceeding to restrict the availability of these grants. A draft order under the Fisheries Act 1981 will be laid before Parliament shortly with a view to it coming into force at the beginning of April. The order will amend the present scheme (the Fishing Vessels (Acquisition and Improvement) (Grants) Scheme 1987) by providing aid only to essential safety improvements and to those cases where it is needed to provide back-up for EC grant aid.The rates of grant for essential improvements will continue to be 30 per cent. (10 per cent. for vessels greater than 33m in length). The rate of back-up grant will be 10 per cent. regardless of vessel size.These measures form part of our process of rationalisation of fleet capacity.