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Common Fisheries Policy

Volume 512: debated on Thursday 24 June 2010

18. What recent discussions she has had with the fishing industry and other interested parties on reform of the common fisheries policy. (3954)

Since May, I have had preliminary discussions with representatives of the fishing industry, and within the next two weeks I will meet the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation and the New Under Ten Fishermen’s Association, along with the EU Fisheries Commissioner, to discuss CFP reform specifically. I have also had discussions about CFP reform with other interested parties, including environmental non-governmental organisations, and shall do so again in the future.

I thank the Minister for his answer. I know that he is aware of the shameful way in which the under-10-metre community of fishermen has been treated in the past 13 years. What steps might this Government take to restore their way of life?

My hon. Friend is to be credited for her assiduousness on behalf of her constituency’s fishing community. She badgered me when I was sitting on the Opposition Benches, and she continues to do so now. My answer will be in three parts. First, there is a longer-term strategy of reforming the CFP and getting an improved deal for vessels under 10 metres in length. In the medium term, we support the very good initiative on sustainable access to inshore fisheries, which was started by the previous Government. The project will report in the next few months and we will take forward its recommendations. In the short term, we can take on board the good suggestions made by fishing communities and hon. Members and try, when we can, to improve the lot of those communities through methods such as swaps of quota. This is not easy, but I assure my hon. Friend that I shall listen to the honest pleadings of her fishing community and do what I can to help them.

I am grateful to the Minister for attending the meeting of the Global Legislators Organisation for a Balanced Environment commission on fisheries on world oceans day. Has he had the opportunity to read the letter that I sent him following the meeting in which I outlined the proposals for a marine fisheries recovery strategy that were made by the 16 nations represented on that day, and when might I expect a response?

I must apologise if I have not replied already. I thank the hon. Gentleman for inviting me to the event, which brought together people from across the world, and for chairing it so well. The event gave us the opportunity to show that what we are doing on marine conservation in this country is ahead of what is being done in many other countries, so people can learn from what we do. I assure him that I will reply to him as soon as I can and take forward the recommendations of that excellent organisation.

I welcome the ministerial team to their positions. I know that they will do their very best in their roles and I ask them to keep the Department in good shape for us.

The CFP is on the agenda of the European Council meeting on 29 June. At that and subsequent meetings, will the Minister try to change the rigid rules that bind the hands of member states in international negotiations so that they abstain when they cannot reach consensus, thus condemning iconic species such as the bluefin tuna and perhaps whales?

I pay tribute to the hon. Gentleman, with whom I worked closely when we sat on opposite sides of the House, for his hard work in doing an awful lot for the fishing community.

I am bemused by the arrangements requiring members of the European Union with a long tradition in the International Whaling Commission, including ourselves, to find an absolutely solid position with EU colleagues. The hon. Gentleman is to be credited for taking an independent line on bluefin tuna. I will take up the matter seriously, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and other colleagues are also concerned about the voting procedure.

On the issue raised by the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Amber Rudd), I know that great expectations were raised in Hastings and elsewhere about the future of the under-10s fleet. I welcome the Minister’s remarks about the work that has already been done, particularly with the SAIF—sustainable access to inshore fisheries—project. There was, however, an expectation of a master plan and an additional way forward, so will he tell us what that is?

I do not want to sound weak, but it is work in progress. I concede, and am the first to admit, that what seems incredibly simple in opposition can become more complicated, as the hon. Gentleman will understand. However, I am deeply mindful that we must recognise that fishing supports not only fishermen themselves, but communities. The Government will be focused on those communities. On the back of the SAIF project, we will bring forward answers in the medium term. We are looking to try to provide more quota and fishing capacity on a daily basis, and that will continue around the coastline.