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Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

Before I answer the question, I want to say that all Members are in awe of the hon. Lady’s courage in standing up for her constituents and the industry she loves so soon after the tragic loss of her husband

Fishermen are facing significant challenges, particularly in the English under-10 metre fleet. Forthcoming domestic and European reforms offer the opportunity fundamentally to change things and put the industry on a sustainable footing in the longer term. In the meantime, along with financial support available through the European Fisheries Fund, the Marine Management Organisation is working with industry effectively to manage the current system, to secure additional quota through swaps and to keep fisheries open as long as possible.

I thank the Minister for those kind words.

I have a special interest in this subject as a custodian of an under-10 metre trawler. The impact assessment accompanying the consultation on the reform of fisheries management arrangements in England has not considered key sensitive assumptions. Will my hon. Friend test the sensitivities and risks for the impact of fixed quota allocations on under-10 metre vessels that, for various reasons, move between ports located in different ICES—International Council for the Exploration of the Sea—areas. Will he also assess the impact of fluctuations in fuel prices?

I think the law of unintended consequences is more prevalent in fisheries management than in anything else I have encountered. I want to make sure that our reforms for the under-10 metre sector work. That is why we developed a consultation, building on the sustainable access to inshore fisheries that was started by the last Government. I hope that we can put inshore fisheries on a sustainable footing. I will look at anything that stands in its way, so I will consult officials on what my hon. Friend has said and get back to her.

I am sure that the Minister will know of reports this morning about of the Commission’s proposals which are to be issued in July, referring to longer quota periods. I hope that he will use his good offices in the negotiations to ensure that no EU-wide conditions are applied that do not take account of local conditions and practices. It is important for the sustainability of fisheries throughout UK waters for local practices not to be disregarded.

I respect the hon. Gentleman’s knowledge of the issue. He is absolutely right. One of our problems in British waters is that we have, by and large, a very mixed fishery, and the top-down system management has not taken that into account. We are pushing for some form of at least sea-based and perhaps more local control and management of our fisheries. I agree with the hon. Gentleman that at the heart of a reformed fisheries policy is the need for local factors to be allowed to play a role, and that many of them should be controlled by member states or more locally to ensure that we have the right and most sustainable policies.