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Common Fisheries Policy

Volume 536: debated on Thursday 24 November 2011

4. What recent discussions she has had with her EU counterparts on reform of the common fisheries policy. (82272)

As the UK fisheries Minister, I continue to have discussions about reform of the common fisheries policy with a wide range of people and organisations. They include the EU Commission, Members of the UK and European Parliaments and ministerial colleagues of other member states, as well as representatives of our fishing and related industries. I will continue to press our case for reform as negotiations develop in the Council and European Parliament.

I thank the Minister for that answer. His and the Government’s commitment to sustainable fisheries and sustainable fishing communities is well known and much appreciated. Is he aware of the real anxiety, shock and growing opposition from the smaller fisherman community to the transferable fishing concessions being proposed, given that this has been so damaging to smaller communities?

The fish in our seas are a national resource and what we are talking about, in the reform of this failed policy, is getting a fairer system for the allocation of that resource. Transferable fishing concessions in other countries are sometimes a lever towards better conservation, but I reassure my hon. Friend and fishermen in her constituency that we are not happy with the proposal that has been made thus far. We think it requires much more detail and there are certain elements of it to which we are opposed. We will keep her and the House informed at every stage.

Will the Minister accept that, however the common fisheries policy is reformed, the biggest threat to fish stocks in our waters and internationally is unsustainable commercial fishing? Given that, what is he doing to ensure that all public procurement of fish in this country, including by this place, is from sustainable sources?

I am pleased to report, if the right hon. Gentleman has not heard, that the Government are announcing Government buying standards at the highest level, commensurate with the Olympic standard, which is considered to be the relevant level of sustainability. Across Government, we will procure fish only from sustainable sources.

Will my ministerial Friend agree that one of the most exciting aspects of the proposed reforms is regional control? Will he strain every sinew to ensure that we end the exclusive competence of the EU in this regard and allow regional fisheries to control their own waters?

I entirely support the words of the Chairman of the Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We have an opportunity to achieve something that we have failed to do for decades—a system that reflects local needs. It is absurd to have a common fisheries policy that from Brussels sets net sizes for fishing fleets around our coast. We have to have some form of regionalisation. We like the direction that the reforms are taking and we wish to see more detail in the coming weeks.

Is it not remarkable that in the space of a quarter of an hour the Government, who are supposed to be blazing a trail for bringing back things from the common market and the European Union, have already eliminated the repatriation of the common agricultural policy and, according to what the Minister just said, fisheries is not on the agenda, either? Are we not being led up the garden path?

It is always nice to hear from the hon. Gentleman with his cheery disposition so early in the morning. He probably did not hear my reply to the previous question, in which I said that we are talking about the repatriation of controls whereby countries around a sea basin will have greater management of our fisheries. The wider question about whether we should have a common fisheries policy at all probably is not for this forum but is, perhaps, for a higher pay grade. He is welcome to take part in the frequent debates that we have in the House on this matter.