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Volume 572: debated on Wednesday 18 December 2013

I have regular discussions with Ministers in the Scottish Government on a range of issues, including fisheries policy.

My ministerial colleagues in the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs also work closely with the Scottish Government to ensure that the interests of Scottish fishermen are fully recognised in the UK position in EU fisheries negotiations.

I congratulate the Government on achieving reform of the common agricultural policy and on introducing an element of regional control. What assessment has my right hon. Friend made of the implications for Scottish fishermen, and will they benefit greatly from it?

I have long been an enthusiast for the regionalisation of the common fisheries policy, and I am delighted that, for the second round of reform, we have seen that at the heart of it. There is still more that can be done, but anything that brings fishermen, scientists and other stakeholders together in order to manage fisheries away from Brussels has got to be good.

Was the right hon. Gentleman as surprised as I was to see Scottish Nationalist party Minister Richard Lochhead claiming that he has secured the quota deal for Scottish fishermen while, at the same time, complaining that he has no voice? Is it not the fact that Scottish fishing is best represented in the EU with a strong voice as part of the UK?

No, I was not at all surprised, because that is exactly the sort of double standard that we have seen from the SNP over the years on this and just about every other issue. The fact is that my hon. Friend the fisheries Minister led the delegation this year to the December Fisheries Council with exceptional skill. He delivered for the Scottish fleet the things that really mattered. In particular, he ensured that there was no further cut in effort and brought home important flexibility on monkfish quotas. He is to be commended for that—[Interruption.]

Order. There is far too much noise in the Chamber. Let us have some quiet so that we can hear a Scottish knight, Sir Menzies Campbell.

No pressure, then, Mr Speaker. When my right hon. Friend is giving proper consideration to the future of the fisheries industry in Scotland, will he pay particular attention to the village-based fisheries industry? That is a particular issue in areas such as my constituency, based as it is on Pittenweem and surrounding ports. It is essential that the interests of the village-based fishing industry are not subjected to the sometimes overbearing influence of those who go further out to sea.

I know from my constituency experience that the small inshore fleet is of great importance to the communities represented by me and my right hon. and learned Friend. His point is well made, and it is important that we do what we can to sustain the fleet in those small ports.

The Secretary of State knows that the postponement of the negotiations with Norway over shared North sea stocks means that the fishing fleet faces an uncertain new year. Will he support the Scottish Government’s calls for an increase in the North sea cod quota next year, in line with the scientific advice?

As the hon. Lady knows, that is a subject to be determined at the EU-Norway talks in January. They have been held over, and although such an increase would be desirable—it is certainly what the industry is looking for—that is not entirely within our gift, as it is an EU negotiation.