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Fishing: Trawlermen Scheme

Volume 706: debated on Thursday 11 December 2008


My right honourable friend the Minister of State for Employment Relations and Postal Affairs, Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.

The Government ran the Icelandic Water trawlermen scheme between 2000 and 2002. This scheme made compensation payments to trawlermen who lost their livelihood following the cod wars in the 1970s. The Parliamentary Ombudsman found last year that some claimants under the scheme had received unfairly low payments, because of the rules on breaks in service, and recommended that my department review the eligibility criteria and scheme rules, to ensure they were consistent with the policy intention underlying the scheme.

We have now completed that review. I appreciate that this has taken longer than originally intended, but this is a complex issue and it is important to get it right.

I have concluded that we should run a new trawlermen scheme and that additional payments should be calculated on the basis of aggregate service on vessels that fished in Icelandic waters. This means that anyone with long service on Icelandic vessels who received significantly reduced payments under the previous scheme (because of a break in their service) should receive an additional payment. This will substantially reduce the impact of any gaps in service and better align the rules with the intention of the scheme.

We will shortly be consulting on the details of the new scheme. We also propose that: the qualifying test should be amended to require successful claimants to have at least two years’ aggregate service on Icelandic vessels during the period of the cod wars; interest should be added to the additional payments; consolatory payments of £200 should be made to successful claimants under the new scheme; the “Thessalonian” should be added to the list of Icelandic vessels for the new scheme; and the new scheme should be limited to existing claims only.

I expect the new scheme to be formally launched by the middle of next year, after we have consulted on the details and considered the views received. Around 1,000 trawlermen should receive additional payments under these arrangements, and the total cost of the new scheme should be less than £10 million.