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Mr. Coe: The hon. Gentleman is probably unaware that the president of the Falmouth and Camborne Labour party is the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), from that famous seafaring constituency, who has not been in the Chamber at all this evening to defend their interests.
Mr. Morley: As the hon. Gentleman has not spent half as much time in the Chamber as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover, the Falmouth and Camborne party has shown that it has made the correct choice.
We are calling on hon. Members to support our amendment because our amendment clearly represents the feelings of hon. Members from all parties. Voting for our amendment tonight would strengthen the Minister's case when he goes to the Council because it would demonstrate clearly the strength of feeling in the House and the need for the Minister to protect the interests of British fishing. 9.49 pm
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Sir Hector Monro): First, I should like to thank very much those hon. Members who made kind references to my new status; perhaps the reception in Florida will be rather warmer than it is at the moment.
The traditional fishing motion before the December Council always sparks off a robust debate, and tonight has been no exception. I am glad that a number of hon. Members with fishing interests have been able to contribute to it. I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Dr. Strang) about the desirability of a full day's debate, in which all hon. Members with fishing interests could take part, but that is not a matter for me.
My hon. Friend the Minister of State has worked very hard indeed over recent months to achieve our current position and to rebut the first two presidency proposals. He and I will reflect very carefully on what has been said tonight before we go to the Council on Monday and Tuesday.
Column 1030I do not follow the arguments of the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), who replied for the Opposition. I should have thought that as the fishing industry has been exceptionally helpful over recent months in forming a united front with the Government to try to obtain the very best possible results from the European Union discussion, it would have been very much better if my hon. Friend and I were to go to Brussels next week with a united House behind us and with everyone determined that we should achieve the best possible for the fishing industry, which is the object of the exercise. I feel that, for the House to be divided tonight on the Opposition amendment, or indeed on other amendments that were not selected but which convey the same impression, would be most unfortunate.
The interest in the debate shows the continued importance of the fishing industry, which makes a tremendously valuable contribution to our economic well-being. All of us who are interested in the fishing industry know how much it means to the more remote areas where there is no alternative but fishing.
There are, of course, many concerns about the future of fishing, some of which have been articulated tonight, but it is sometimes easy to get the impression that the industry is hanging over a cliff-edge. Some key issues must certainly be resolved, especially the need to balance the fishing effort of our fleet with the fishing opportunities available to it.
Decommissioning was raised by a number of hon. Members. I believe that our £25 million scheme has been a big success. The first two tranches have taken out a significant percentage of the multi-annual guidance programme and we will remove about 6 per cent. over the whole scheme. It is worth recording that the Opposition have indicated that they are prepared to spend £75 million on a decommissioning scheme without saying where that sum will come from. However, more will need to be done at Community, national and industry level to ensure the sustainability of stock and we cannot look to instant solutions. I see no reason why the long-term future of the industry should not be bright.
The hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes), who was hopping up and down but now does not seem to realise that I am speaking to him, should have confidence on the issue of area VI and the quotas. We will discuss that issue in detail next week. The 1994 TAC was 13,000 tonnes. That figure is recommended by the Commission for discussion next week, and we shall watch that very closely indeed, as we did in respect of nephrops in other parts of Scotland and the United Kingdom. We were able to obtain additional quota, which was most important, over the past month.
My hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) pleaded for regional issues and the position of areas VII a, f and g. I assure him that we will watch those matters very closely indeed. If we can achieve all that he wants, I am sure that he will be the first to say thank you.
The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) was wrong on several counts. There is no question of the Spaniards coming into the North sea for any stock unless a British licence is sold to a Spanish boat. It is wrong for the hon. Gentleman to continue to raise that issue, because the Spaniards do not have a track record in that respect. There is no question of my hon. Friend the Minister climbing down. He has been right at the front, leading the
Column 1031charge at each Council meeting in September and November, when we were able to reverse the policies that were on the table. Again, the hon. Member for Great Grimsby was highly critical of policing matters. I know that the issue of the Spanish boats is difficult, but the hon. Gentleman must also give tremendous credit to our fisheries protection vessels, both at sea and in the air. They have had great success. Courts in Scotland have convicted offenders, imposing large fines on the Spaniards.
My hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) made an important point about directives. We will bring his remarks to the attention of my colleagues in the Department of Transport and discuss further the medical stores and other matters that he raised. My hon. Friend was right to highlight the issue of prawn fishing and how we were able to obtain extra quota, particularly for the Fladden grounds, which will have an important impact on North Shields.
The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) was right to say that we must not give away our negotiating position. We do not intend to do so, however much the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe says that we should give a bottom line. The last thing that we want to give is a bottom line. We will be way above it. There is no use in negotiating from a bottom line. I agree that we do not want to be tied down. We will see what comes out of the negotiations.
My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) is wise and experienced in this issue. It will be a tough negotiation, but we are going to try to get the very best out of it that we possibly can. My hon. Friend has confidence in our hon. Friend the Minister. We will fight a very hard battle in Brussels next week.
I advise the right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) and the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) that we were helped in the negotiations by officials from the Northern Ireland Office and by my noble Friend Lady Denton. We will keep a very close watch on quotas. I have been looking at the proposed cod quotas for area VII a, which is down from 6,200 tonnes to 5,600 tonnes. We will negotiate on that issue next week, and we will do the very best that we possibly can for Northern Irish fishermen.
Opposition Members must realise that the negotiations next week will be critical. The diplomatic stakes are very high. It is no use Opposition Members expecting us to show our hand tonight. We will argue the case for the very best results for our fishermen, who deserve and are receiving the Government's support in terms of the money that we are putting into fishing, including, as I announced yesterday, large grants to three fishing ports in Scotland, which was good news for them. I should like to think that hon. Members on both sides of the House will be behind us when we go to Brussels to achieve the best result for Britain and Britain's fisherman. Question put , That the amendment be made:--
The House divided : Ayes 270, Noes 298.
Division No. 24] [21.59 pm
Column 1031Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Column 1031Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Ms Janet (Ros'dale)
Column 1032Ashton, Joe
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Bray, Dr Jeremy
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)
Brown, N (N'c'tle upon Tyne E)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, D N
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Clwyd, Mrs Ann
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Robin (Livingston)
Cunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Cunningham, Rt Hon Dr John
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham, H'dge H'l)
Donohoe, Brian H
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Ms Angela
Evans, John (St Helens N)
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Field, Frank (Birkenhead)