Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Oliver Letwin (West Dorset): What will happen if the Minister imposes regulations in the licence in accordance with the letters that have been exchanged, the case is then taken to the European Court, and his new licences are found to be in contravention of the treaty in the judgment of the European Court? What steps will the Government then take?

Dr. Cunningham: All that is hypothetical.

Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central): I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, which will mean genuine progress in the fishing industry. I particularly welcome his announcement that he intends to hold a fishing summit. In Aberdeen, we recognise that the fishing industry is made up not just of the fish-catching side. Many thousands of jobs depend, for example, on the fish processing and merchant side of the business, and of course there is the consumer angle. Therefore, when he pulls together his summit, will he take those interests into consideration, and include them in his discussions?

Dr. Cunningham: I am happy to give my hon. Friend that assurance.

Mr. James Wallace (Orkney and Shetland): The Minister's statement referred to a number of requirements: 50 per cent. of catch should be landed at UK ports, a majority of the crew should be resident in the UK and a majority of fishing trips should start from the UK port. They are all linked by the word "or". Is it one out of three or two out of three, or is that the sort of matter that he will be discussing?

Dr. Cunningham: It can be a combination of all three in part. That is a matter for discussion in terms of the conditions that we shall apply to the licences.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): Is not the truly remarkable thing about quota hopping the fact that, of all the European countries, the only fleet that has suffered significantly is Britain's? When I ask fishermen in Lowestoft, "Why don't you hop on another country's quota," they say, "You just try. You can't do that."

Therefore, is not the real significance of today's announcement the fact that, for the first time, we have a Government who have achieved something that will not only discourage future quota hopping by bringing in the

18 Jun 1997 : Column 343

economic link, but deal with the existing situation? Is it not a fact that more fish will therefore be landed in British ports, which is good for British fish markets, and more British fishermen will be able to be employed on the boats, where previously they were denied access?

Dr. Cunningham: I am grateful to my hon. Friend, and delighted to see him here, as I played a small part in his campaign. He is absolutely right, of course. The reason why our fishermen cannot buy quota in other countries is simply that it is not for sale: other Governments have ensured that the economic circumstances of their fishing industries make it profitable and secure for their fishermen to hold on to their quota. The previous Government failed to do that in this country, which led to the sale of quota and caused the problem in the first place.

Mr. Andrew George (St. Ives): I feel sure that the right hon. Gentleman recognises that the announcement is more of a sprat than a prize fish. I know that, throughout the fishing industry, there will be deep disappointment that it does not deal with the fundamental issues. However, I feel sure that he also shares my concern that the fishing industry and fishermen in particular have, over the past year, perhaps been used by certain people of a more xenophobic--

Madam Speaker: Order. I am listening very carefully, but I have not yet heard a question.

Mr. George: The question is coming.

Madam Speaker: Good. Let us have it now.

Mr. George: In the measures proposed here, there are difficulties, in that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) pointed out, if it is a question of either/or in relation to the crewing requirement--

Madam Speaker: Order. The hon. Gentleman will resume his seat for a moment. I have asked for a question. I am very tolerant with new Members, as I was with the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble). I explained to the House that this is Question Time, and questions must be put to the Minister. I am now waiting for the hon. Gentleman's question.

Mr. George: Given the fact that there are difficulties, does the Minister agree that, under the crewing arrangements, it is possible for the crew of quota hoppers simply to use postal addresses in the United Kingdom? It is not possible to impose nationality criteria in relation to crewing arrangements.

Dr. Cunningham: In the part of the world that I was born and grew up in, we were told that, when the boat comes in, little fish are sweet, so I agree that this is by no means the end of the problems faced by the fishing industry and our fishing communities. This is the beginning of a strategy to tackle those deep-seated and long-established problems. The conditions that we shall apply to the licences will meet one of those criteria or a combination of one or more of them, so long as we are satisfied that the resulting economic benefit to the communities concerned is real and can be sustained.

Mr. Calum Macdonald (Western Isles): Given the fact that we got into this mess under the Tories in the first

18 Jun 1997 : Column 344

place because they allowed free trade in licences and quotas, will the Minister consider reviewing the whole system of selling quotas and licences to the highest bidder as part of his review of local and regional fisheries management?

Dr. Cunningham: In a single market, I cannot stop people willingly and lawfully selling something that is theirs; that is the reality. We want to achieve circumstances in our fishing communities and fishing industries that make it attractive not to sell quota, but to retain it in those communities because they will obtain significant economic benefit from it.

The economic conditions that prevailed in the communities led to the sale of quota. We hope that, through the changes we shall make and through the development of a strategy for our fishing industries, we will minimise--I will not say eliminate--the sale of quota.

Mr. Iain Duncan Smith (Chingford and Woodford Green): Is not the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) correct to suggest that the key to the problem is the clash between the concept of having quotas and the free market in Europe, which causes a problem with the common fisheries policy?

I want to press the Minister on the legality of what he has agreed. Is not the reality that the Spaniards are pleased because they know that there is no legal binding framework that is justiciable in front of the European Court of Justice? What does he plan to do to rectify that?

Dr. Cunningham: Depending on what newspaper one reads or what broadcast one listens to, our Spanish colleagues are either pleased or hopping mad. Both reports cannot be true. I am satisfied that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister has concluded sensible, practical steps forward to deal with the problems. Those steps should be welcomed for what they are--reasonable progress in the circumstances. They give us an opportunity to build upon that progress. I want fishing communities and fishermen throughout the United Kingdom to play a part, with my ministerial colleagues and myself, in building on those important first steps.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Vale of York): The Minister rightly said that enforcement is the key. My concern is that, until recently, there were no inspectors in Spain.

My hon. Friend the Member for Chingford and Woodford Green (Mr. Duncan Smith) made a key point: until we have an agreement that is part of the treaty--I understand that this agreement is not--it simply cannot stand up in the European Court of Justice. As my hon. Friend said, our fishermen do not have justiciable rights to rely on before the European Court or, indeed, any court in this country.

Dr. Cunningham: What the hon. Lady says is not true. The requirement to land 50 per cent. of catch already applies in Denmark. That has not been challenged in the European Court. I cannot rule out legal challenges, but I am confident that we can develop licence conditions--and get the agreement and support of the Commission--that we can sustain. That is our objective. The agreement achieved by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister in Amsterdam will give us the opportunity to secure that.

18 Jun 1997 : Column 345


Wild Mammals (Hunting with Dogs)

Mr. Michael Foster, supported by Mr. Roger Gale, Mr. Kevin McNamara, Mr. Simon Hughes, Angela Smith, Sir Teddy Taylor, Mr. Ivor Caplin, Mrs. Jackie Ballard, Ms Jackie Lawrence, Mr. Nigel Jones, Mrs. Margaret Ewing and Mr. Ian Cawsey, presented a Bill to make provision for the protection of wild mammals from being pursued, killed or injured by the use of dogs; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 28 November, and to be printed [Bill 7].

Mental Health (Amendment)

Dr. Julian Lewis, supported by Mrs. Gillian Shephard, Mr. Simon Hughes, Mr. Kevin McNamara, Mrs. Angela Browning, Mr. Charles Kennedy, Mr. Donald Anderson, Mr. Nicholas Winterton, Mr. David Marshall, Mr. Iain Duncan Smith, Mr. Chris Mullin and Mr. John Bercow, presented a Bill to amend the Mental Health Act 1983 to provide greater access to hospital accommodation for mentally ill people; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time upon Friday 12 December, and to be printed [Bill 8].

Next Section

IndexHome Page