As UK fisheries Minister, I have had discussions with a range of organisations and people about common fisheries policy reform, including discussions with the EU Fisheries Commissioner and other member states’ Ministers during November’s EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council. I have also met representatives of the fishing industry—both the large-scale and under-10-metre sector—MEPs and non-governmental organisations. I plan to have further discussions in pressing our case for radical reform of the CFP.
I thank the Minister for that reply, and for meeting a delegation of Lowestoft fishermen last week. I wish him well in his negotiations at next week’s Council of Ministers meeting. The future of fishermen and communities all around Britain depends on a successful outcome. Will the Minister confirm that in the review of the CFP, his priorities will include a fair deal for the under-10-metre fleet and the elimination of discards?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his good wishes for next week’s negotiations, and I confirm that the UK is committed to genuine fundamental reform—to achieving healthy fish stocks, a prosperous fishing industry and a healthy marine environment. Part of that agenda is to ensure that we have regionalised decision making and an end to the top-down failure of the current common fisheries policy, and that we give fishermen a stake in the long-term health of fish stocks. That involves those in the under-10-metre sector; I am deeply mindful of the problems that they have faced in recent years, and I want to give them and the communities that they support a long-term future under a reformed CFP.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady and to other Northern Ireland Members who have been forceful in putting the case for the fishing communities that they represent. I recognise that they, like many other areas of the country, are affected by an industry in crisis. Our immediate attempts will be to secure for them adequate fish stocks to exploit over the coming year. However, I put on record my determination that they should not continue to live from hand to mouth. As someone who has been in business, I do not know how fishermen can deal with a bank manager when they do not know what they will be able to achieve in three, four or five months’ time. I want to give them a longer-term future, in which they can be part of the solution, rather than being constantly browbeaten by an overbearing and multi-layered regulatory system.