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Mr. Charles Kennedy (Ross, Skye and Inverness, West): I acknowledge that the Minister's inheritance in fisheries policy, as in quite a number of other policy areas within his remit, is a sorry one--a fact eloquently underscored by the response by the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Baldry), the Conservative party spokesman, to the right hon. Gentleman's statement. None the less, will the Minister acknowledge that, perhaps inescapably at this stage in the discussions, his statement almost raises more questions than it can provide immediate answers?

Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that quota hopping, devilish though it is, is a symptom of the deeper problem--the common fisheries policy itself? Will he therefore commit himself and the new Administration to a fundamental reform of the CFP, with the specific aim, based on the intention behind the discussions that he has outlined, of establishing proper regional management of fisheries, which must be more sane and sensible for the long-term viability of the domestic sector of our industry?

Dr. Cunningham: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman, and I congratulate him on his question, which made far more sense and was far more constructive and realistic than what was said on behalf of the Conservative party. He is right to say that the inheritance is a sorry one, and I am pleased that he recognises that fact. He is also right to say that there are many more questions to which we must find answers. I share his opinion that the sale of United Kingdom quota was a symptom and a consequence of the neglect of our fishing industry. It is not the root of the problem, but we still want to act as quickly as we can in trying to mitigate it.

I share the hon. Gentleman's medium-term objective of reform of the common fisheries policy. We have already had preliminary discussions on that subject, as the Prime Minister and I have both confirmed. Better involvement of fishermen and fishing communities in the future of their industry is one of our primary objectives. I share the hon. Gentleman's attachment to that idea as part of the way forward. Regional management of our fisheries makes sense not only from the point of view of the people in those communities but from that of Ministers, too.

Several hon. Members rose--

Madam Speaker: Order. I appeal to all hon. Members, as well as to the Minister, for short questions and short answers. We have not yet even reached the Orders of the Day, and I have the rest of the business of the House to safeguard.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his succession to this bed not of nails but of dogfish and cattle teeth. I congratulate him, too, on doing more about the quota hoppers in his short period in office than the previous Government did in 18 years. None the less, the industry is very dissatisfied with a settlement that will make life more difficult for Grimsby vessels, many of which land overseas to a considerable extent, yet which does not close the door to future quota hoppers.

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Quota hoppers still constitute 26 per cent. of the British fleet, so, when the time comes to assess our targets for effort limitation, an almost impossible cut in the British fleet will be required if we are to gain access to the European funding that the industry desperately needs, and that competing industries have already had.

Finally, because there is a ridiculously mixed system of capacity and effort limitation under multi-annual guidance programme IV, can the Minister tell us that he does not envisage any kind of limitation on days at sea, such as the previous Government failed to impose on the industry?

Dr. Cunningham: I can assure my hon. Friend that Grimsby fishermen and others sailing from that port will have every opportunity to add to his already formidable representation of their interests. As for conservation and the requirement for reduced effort, when the measures emerge they will affect all licence holders, not only those based in the United Kingdom. I cannot lawfully impose all such reductions on overseas vessels holding United Kingdom licences. I simply would not be allowed to do so.

With regard to MAGP IV, we have discovered that part of this miserable legacy is the previous Administration's failure to meet many of the requirements of MAGP III, so we have inherited a huge backlog of work on conservation measures.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on his appointment. I have known him for tens of years and I have never seen him as a Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, but none the less I wish him well, because, unless he does well, British agriculture and British fishing will suffer.

Will he overcome my concern that there is nothing in the statement about many of the most interesting and smaller communities of inshore fishermen, such as Seaton, Beer and Sidmouth in my constituency? Many small communities rely on the work of their men. No consideration has been given to many of their concerns--which I do not need to outline, because the right hon. Gentleman will know about them--either in the statement or in the negotiations.

Dr. Cunningham: I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for his kindness. I never saw myself as Minister of Agriculture, either, but I am enjoying the responsibilities, and am looking forward to playing an important role in my right hon. Friend's Government.

The right hon. Gentleman says that we have given no consideration to small fishing communities. I am pleased to tell him that that is not true. I represent a small fishing community in the port of Whitehaven, so I am keenly aware of the points that he legitimately makes on behalf of smaller fishing communities. When we review the common fisheries policy, it will be important to such smaller communities that we seek some stability, especially the maintenance of the control of the 12-mile limit. We want to make it clear that many of the changes that we shall be required to implement under MAGP III and MAGP IV will not affect the smallest vessels.

Mrs. Linda Gilroy (Plymouth, Sutton): In his further talks with the Commission, will my right hon. Friend

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build on the Commission's interest, which I was pleased to hear him mention, in regional involvement in decision making? That would be welcome in the south-west, where conservation measures have often been inappropriate to the mixed fish stocks there, and would play an important part in the development of solutions for conservation.

Dr. Cunningham: I accept my hon. Friend's point. As I have said several times already, we intend to make significant changes to improve regional involvement of fishing communities in the policy development that is so important to their health and well-being.

Mr. Alex Salmond (Banff and Buchan): Will the Minister confirm, perhaps for the benefit of the Prime Minister, that category A fishing licences--I have one here--already contain the stipulation that 50 per cent. of catches should be landed at domestic ports? If it is a question of implementation, how is transhipment to be dealt with? For example, are fish that are landed at the port of Buckie in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) and taken straight to Spain counted as part of a domestically landed catch?

Am I right in believing that more than 90 per cent. of the crews of flags-of-convenience vessels do not have Marine Safety Agency certification? If so, are they not fishing illegally, and should not the same restraint be used on them as would be used on the crews of boats in my constituency or that of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray, or on any domestic fishermen who did not have MSA certification?

Dr. Cunningham: I can confirm that, under existing licence rules, vessels that land less than 50 per cent. of a catch in the United Kingdom are required to visit UK ports at least four times in six months for inspection. That is a weak control. We propose a more effective control, which will give us more economic benefit than the existing provisions. The hon. Gentleman is partly, but not wholly, right.

As for enforcement, we should be candid with ourselves and recognise that enforcement measures have not been as effective as they might have been in respect of our own, let alone overseas, fishing effort. That is why the second most important part of what I have been saying, and what my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has been saying, is that we must toughen up enforcement, and have uniform application of enforcement throughout the European Union. I do not want rules to apply to United Kingdom fishermen and their vessels that are not universally applied. We will continue to press that.

A number of vessels have been heavily fined for breaking the existing regulations. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we shall be even tougher in the future in enforcing the rules.

Dr. Norman A. Godman (Greenock and Inverclyde): My right hon. Friend is right to condemn previous Tory Administrations. It was the Tory Government led by the right hon. Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup(Sir E. Heath) who sold the pass, and others have continued down that sad road. I speak as a member of a fisherman's family.

Apart from the serious problem of quota hopping, there is another problem that I consider equally serious: industrial fishing. Will my right hon. Friend do something

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about the need to reduce, if not abolish, that wasteful practice? In Scottish waters, the Wee Bankie and the Buckie Man's bank should be protected from the onslaught on the sand eel by Danish fishermen.

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