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Mr. Wallace: Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Morley: Briefly, as I must bring my remarks to a close.

Mr. Wallace: What does the Minister hope to achieve during the presidency to ensure much more equality of enforcement of fisheries measures throughout the Community?

Mr. Morley: That will be one of the priorities during our presidency. I attended the conference of Fisheries Ministers in Vigo, when enforcement was the main topic. I was very encouraged by the undoubted determination of all countries in the European Union to tackle enforcement and such issues as the landing and, indeed, the marketing of undersized fish, of which there is a long tradition in some countries. It is an issue on which we need to make progress, and we believe that there is support for that in both the Commission and the Council.

I have had many contacts with fishermen and fishermen's organisations during my time as a Minister. The leading organisations such as the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and, in Scotland, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation play a vital part in ensuring that the Government receive a full and balanced presentation of what the catching sector is thinking. I pay a warm tribute to the constructive role they have played. I would also like to take this opportunity to send good wishes to Cecil Finn, the president of the SFF, who is recovering from a triple heart bypass operation.

The NFFO and the SFF were key voices when, last July, we took the initiative of convening a meeting of a broad range of interests in the fishing industry. That high-level meeting went much wider than the catching sector and was, we believe, useful in giving broader direction to the consideration of policy. We envisage having a further high-level meeting early next year to look at the topics arising during our presidency.

The underlying problems of the fisheries sector are substantial, and a great deal remains to be done. It will not be easy for the fishing industry, which will need to accept continuing adjustments and rationalisation if it is to be sustainable and economic in the long term. However, the Government are determined to secure the industry's future and to plan the way forward in close contact with all parts of the industry, and taking full account of the interests of consumers and the environmental implications of fisheries policy.

For the first time in many years, we are making progress on a number of fronts relating to outstanding issues. The MAGP IV agreement gives the industry some stability, and it will come as a relief for most of the fleet. It is our priority to achieve a sustainable fishing industry and to give fishermen a real stake in managing it. While much remains to be done, the days of gesture politics to appease an anti-European rump are over.

Mr. Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby): What a shame.

Mr. Morley: Our priority is a prosperous, stable and sustainable fishing industry recognising the rich regional

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diversity of our coastal communities and the crucial importance to certain regions of this national industry. The measures I have announced today are an important beginning in meeting those objectives.

I commend the motion to the House.

4.34 pm

Mr. Michael Jack (Fylde): I beg to move, To leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:

I was intrigued by the sedentary intervention of the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell). His voice was a timely contribution to the debate because it showed that Labour Members are not going to allow the Minister to have his own way.

Before I get into the meat of the debate, on behalf of the Opposition, I repeat the Minister's salute to the industry. We associate ourselves with his remarks about the sad losses in the industry since the debate 12 months ago. Any hon. Member who read the newspaper reports of the raising of the vessel Sapphire, and the reports of the continuing anguish of the families, will understand only too clearly what a dangerous occupation fishing is. Those of us who enjoy our fish, whether in the form of traditional fish and chips or of more sophisticated dishes, have much for which to thank the fishing industry, which ensures a regular supply of excellent quality fish.

I join the Minister in sending my best wishes to Cecil Finn. He has been a doughty advocate of the industry north of the border, and we wish him well.

The Minister tried to give the impression that all was sweetness and light between the industry and the Labour party, but I took some comfort from a west country newspaper article that followed his first meeting as Minister. In the Western Morning News of 13 May, Jim Portus, chief executive of the South-West Fish Producers Organisation, said:

I felt slightly better having read that. Having been in the fishing industry's firing line, I am still dusting the flour from my coat, or at least my driver's coat, so I know what it is like. I sympathise with the Minister. It is a rough, tough industry to negotiate with, but it is worth standing up for.

I know that the Minister has a genuine interest in the fishing industry because I debated the matter with him when we were in government and he was in opposition, and he showed his expertise and understanding in the way in which he dealt with the interventions. I wish him well in his supporting role to the Minister of Agriculture,

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Fisheries and Food at the Agriculture Council. No doubt the Minister will read out the speaking notes, ably written by his officials, but the explanation will come from the Parliamentary Secretary.

As the hon. Member said, this is our annual opportunity to review the fishing industry and to hold the Government to account for their stewardship of fishing policy, for which they have been responsible for the past eight months. It is a great pity that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not able to be here, because he will carry much of the burden. I am sure that he will be engaged in bilateral discussions with other fisheries Ministers.

Perhaps the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald), will be able to tell us in his winding-up speech whether the Minister will present the case on behalf of the United Kingdom industry in the form of a special presentation to the presidency and to the chairman of the Council of Ministers to make certain that our negotiating position is properly understood before the detailed discussions start tomorrow.

I want to review in a little more detail some of the issues involving total allowable catches and quotas that the Minister has mentioned. His party is fond of discussing openness. It is important that, in his winding-up speech, the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland comments on how he views some of the genuine issues that the industry has put before him.

It is important that the Minister be held to account for what he achieves in the negotiations in Brussels. I hope that he will desist from the typical way in which a difficult negotiation is usually wrapped up: a press release, which was written before he left his new sumptuous premises in Smith square, is issued, which reads something like, "We had a terrifically tough negotiation." The Minister works out that any extra stock is worth X thousand or million pounds more, adds everything together and says that it is a tremendous result for the British fishing industry because the total value of the catch is going up; but that leaves people thrashing about if their sector has gone down or if it is the one for which the Minister has failed to meet his negotiating remit.

I want more a little more detail from the Minister about how he is to proceed. I am not accusing him of being a dishonest person, but will he assure us that he will be straightforward and honest when he reports the outcome of the Council?

I want to spend a little time examining the Minister's record on quota hopping, to probe him a little more on multi-annual guidance programme IV, to raise briefly the working time directive--a cause of deep concern in the industry, especially north of the border--to ask a question on behalf of the frozen food industry and its difficulties in persuading the Minister to talk to its representatives about supplies of fish from Russian sources, and to mention briefly the difficulties of the Thames fishing industry.

Mr. Morley: I must correct the impression that the right hon. Gentleman may have given. I recently met representatives of the frozen food industry to talk about the problems of Russian supply.

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