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Madam Speaker: If there is any complaint whatsoever, the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn) should raise it with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. Hon. Members should not take up the time of the House by raising petty points of

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order on the Floor of the House. We have a structure and such matters should be referred there. I will hear no more on these matters in future. That is my ruling.

Mr. Robin Corbett (Birmingham, Erdington): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. During questions, reference was made to the report of the working party on school security that was published by the Department for Education and Employment. Will you inquire as to why it is not available in the Vote Office?

Madam Speaker: Certainly. I shall make some inquiries. It may well need to be available in the Vote Office. I was not sure where it was available, but I shall make inquiries right away. It is available in the Library, but perhaps we should also have it in the Vote Office, if Members so wish.

Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. Last week, you kindly ruled on the matter of legal advice that the Government were given in respect of the Westminster city council district auditor's report. Further to that, is it a correct interpretation of your ruling that if the Government assert as a matter of law some advice that they have been given, they have to justify that advice by revealing it? The only reason why I raise the matter is that we are potentially at risk if the Government do not either show their hand and their advice, or change their attitude of providing completely inaccurate representations of the legal status of a district auditor's report.

Madam Speaker: I refer the hon. Gentleman and the entire House to my response last week. It is a matter of questioning the Government, who are accountable on some of these matters as a matter of debate and argument. I can give no ruling on that. It is the cut and thrust of parliamentary debate across the Floor of the House.

Mr. Tim Devlin (Stockton, South): On a point of order, Madam Speaker. My point is similar to one that was raised earlier. I do not want to try your patience, but I understand from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that if one travels to a foreign country and is paid for by anyone other than the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association or the Inter-Parliamentary Union, that has to be registered and it debars an hon. Member from discussing the matter in the House of Commons. That rather negates the point of going on any such journey abroad to familiarise oneself with a problem. Is that right?

Madam Speaker: That matter has been raised very many times. Members are familiar with it. We have a Committee that sits regularly to advise Members on such matters. They should not be raised individually on the Floor of the House. If the hon. Gentleman sees the Chairman of that Committee, I am sure that he will advise him accordingly.

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Fishery Limits (Amendment)

3.37 pm

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): I beg to move,

The Bill is based on the fundamental principle of the British constitution that Parliament cannot bind itself and that a later Parliament can take back what was previously given away.

The Bill provides that the European Communities Act 1972, by which we accepted Community law and made it superior to British law, shall not apply to the Fishery Limits Act 1976, by which we followed the world trend to 200-mile limits. It would enable us to enforce that law against European vessels that are at present over-fishing our stocks. It would also allow British courts to enforce British law--and that would make a nice change.

The Bill would strengthen the Merchant Shipping Act 1988 in order to keep out the quota hoppers, who constitute the equivalent of about one fifth of the British fleet.

The Bill represents a way out of the common fisheries policy, which has been an unique disaster. Even the most ardent Europhiles do not defend it. It was put together days before we joined the Common Market, as it then was, to allow access to our rich fishing grounds. It was based on a principle of equal access to a common resource--the only common resource--deliberately to gain access to our stocks.

At the time, the policy was cravenly accepted and fudged through, because the Prime Minister of the day was not about to let a little matter like fishing stand in the way of his great vision. Fishing was betrayed by what happened then. As a result, a nation that contributes 75 per cent. of the stocks and the great majority of the waters gets only about one third of the catch and 12 per cent. of its value.

The common fisheries policy stopped us rebuilding our fishing industry when we lost Icelandic waters. Every other nation took its own 200-mile limit and built a strong industry behind that limit, but we were not allowed to exploit our own rich waters. We now import the fish that we used to catch for ourselves, much of it taken in our waters by European fleets and sent back to us.

The policy has not worked. It was supposed to conserve stocks, but we have a conservation crisis; it was supposed to bring harmony, but we have conflict; it was supposed to develop the industry, but we have a shrunken, battered industry; it was supposed to sustain a law, but it is driving fishermen to illegality. The policy is now reaching a crisis. Equal access means that all new entrants with big fishing fleets but no waters of their own can catch fish in our waters. Spain has shown the way, but behind Spain stands a queue--Bulgaria, Poland and the Baltic states,

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all with their own sizeable fishing fleets. This country will soon face a substantial reduction in its effort to make way for Spanish fishing vessels. After we have cut our effort by about one fifth, one fifth of our fleet will effectively be owned by foreigners.

As a system of conservation, this is nothing but muddle and bureaucracy. It is not a centralised system, which would be able to control catches at the port of landing and ensure a level catching ground so that other industries were not supported at the expense of ours; nor is it a system of national control. National control is the only way out, because only the nation state has an interest in conserving fish stocks and handing them on to future generations of its own fishermen. For others, those stocks are a resource to be looted, but for us they form an essential basis for the future.

I am a moderate man, and I represent an even more moderate party. Ministers have told us that they will fight for change, and they will fight for change all the more effectively if they have a big stick behind them to give them courage and confidence; but the odds are against their winning. Every other nation has a veto on concessions to us--the kind of concessions that we need. The system has not changed substantially in all the years during which it has operated. It merely gives us tighter quotas, and the tighter the quotas become, the bigger the discards will be, the more "black fish" will be brought into ports and the greater will be the degree of illegality--illegality that is becoming a way of life for many fishermen. But if those Ministers do not win, the Bill will give them the power to determine our future.

I admit that it is a question of will, but the matter must be seen in the context of our general relationships with Europe. Because the common fisheries policy is the worst policy, it is the best issue on which to test those relationships and take a firm stand in order to build a new relationship. The present relationship is disastrous. Both Government and Opposition want free association, a free market and co-operation between independent nation states, but what Europe wants is a constant drive towards deeper and tighter unities, and we are constantly dragged behind, grumbling, protesting, muttering and sulking, because we have no ground on which to stand. There is no legal basis for a new relationship that would stop the process.

The Bill provides that relationship by giving us that firm ground. I hope that this will not be seen as part of a pro or anti-Europe argument, because my main purpose is to rebuild and strengthen British fishing, which has been badly weakened and undermined. To do that, we must be able to enforce our own law, and impose our own fishing regime and conservation measures in our own waters before it is too late. If we are in control of our own waters, we can arrange swaps and deals with European countries in return for catching fish in their waters. We can reach arrangements with Iceland, Norway, Canada and other countries outside the area where we have traditionally caught fish, and they can be allowed a return catch in our waters. We can impose our own system of management and control--one that works for a change--and rebuild our industry. Most important of all, we can conserve and build up our stocks for our partners, for ourselves and for the next generation of British fishermen instead of prolonging the present disaster.

Question put and agreed to.

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Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Austin Mitchell, Mr. Peter Shore, Mr. Richard Shepherd, Mr. William Ross, Rev. Ian Paisley, Mr. Nigel Spearing, Mrs. Teresa Gorman, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith and Mr. Christopher Gill.

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