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7.47 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Calum Macdonald): It is a pleasure for me to wind up the debate, which has ranged widely and--for the most part--constructively across many aspects of fisheries policy. This is my first opportunity as a Scottish Office Minister to speak on this subject--or, indeed, any other--and I am grateful for the kind words of welcome from various hon. Members.

Mine is not the only maiden. We had the pleasure of an excellent speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Mrs. Butler), who painted a lovely and enticing picture of her constituency and expressed

17 Dec 1997 : Column 395

particular support for a greater regional approach to fisheries policy. This point was made also by my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mr. Foster), and the Government agree strongly--as is expressed in the motion tonight.

Like others, I acknowledge the special nature of the industry, which I know well from my constituency. Fishing is a harsh and dangerous occupation, and fishermen have regrettably paid the price for reaping the harvest of the sea. Our thoughts go to those who have lost relatives and loved ones in the fishing industry. The sinking of the Sapphire has been referred to, and I pay a personal tribute to the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) for his campaign and, more especially, to the Sapphire families for the dignified way in which they have conducted their campaign.

The question of safety naturally came up in the debate. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George) and the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mrs. Michie) spoke about the five-year strategy for coastguard stations that was announced on 17 November. The aim is to enhance search and rescue around the United Kingdom and to improve the safety of seafarers, and a multi-million pound investment is being made in digital technology.

Staff, trade unions and others are being consulted on the proposed closures. A paper explaining the strategy and its detailed implications will be made available and comments invited, especially from fishermen's organisations. The Minister responsible, my hon. Friend the Member for Hampstead and Highgate (Ms Jackson), will publish that document, and she has been with us for this debate.

As hon. Members can see from the pile of papers in front of me, many issues have been raised in the debate. I shall try to get through as many as I can. If I fail to deal with some I shall write to those hon. Members who made them with specific answers. The first point came from the hon. Member for Stone (Mr. Cash), who is no longer here. He queried the delay in the publication of the various figures and statistics lying behind tonight's debate. We now understand that the European Commission is to publish the full figures for the multi-annual guidance programme IV decisions today. I shall ensure that they are brought to the attention of the House as quickly as possible.

The hon. Member for Woodspring (Dr. Fox) and the right hon. Member for Fylde (Mr. Jack) mentioned the working time directive. As the former said, fishing is excluded from its terms; but the European Commission is considering the extension to fishermen of the directive's provisions for four weeks' paid annual leave; for health assessments for night workers; and for a guarantee of adequate rest and a maximum number of hours to be worked annually. We are aware of the industry's strong opposition to the application to sea fishing of working time requirements, and we shall seek to ensure that any arrangements introduced take full account of the realities of commercial fishing.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran) raised a couple of points, one of which concerned the Russian imports coming in through Aberdeen and the various hygiene requirements, which are causing difficulties. The Government are well aware

17 Dec 1997 : Column 396

of those concerns, and Ministers have met representatives of the processing industry to try to find a satisfactory solution. The Scottish Fish Merchants Federation has also made its concerns on the urban waste water directive clear to my noble Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, but we are unfortunately unable to offer any prospect of relief from the costs.

The hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) raised a matter that I remember from a Committee on which we both served not so long ago: the problem of an oil spill that affected the fishing interests in her constituency. She said that it did not appear to be from the source from which it was originally believed to have come. She made a serious point, and I shall make inquiries on the matter. Trying to ensure that the polluter pays is a United Kingdom problem, not just a Scottish problem.

On total allowable catches and quotas, several hon. Members have spoken of the need to secure increases in this or that TAC. My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will have listened to those points and they will be taken into account in the forthcoming discussions. The hon. Member for St. Ives mentioned the inshore sector, and the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) made a similar plea. We are very mindful indeed of the regional differences in the industry.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) made an excellent speech defending the interests of her port, and the Government are very conscious of the problem to which she drew our attention. Our proposals on designated ports will be made with her concerns very much in mind.

The right hon. Member for Fylde mentioned the allocation of Atlanto-Scandian herring TAC, and described it as a very poor deal. I fully agree: it happens to be a deal which the previous Government negotiated, and unfortunately it is difficult to secure change to that allocation, but if we see an opportunity to do so we will take it.

Several hon. Members spoke about the allocation of new TACs, and horse mackerel was mentioned a few times. We acknowledge that there are problems with the definition of species and we want to ensure that if any proposals are made on allocations they are fair and take account of UK interests.

The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, along with the right hon. Member for Fylde and others, asked about the Hague preference, and the hon. Member for South Down made the point that its invocation in the Irish sea by the Republic works to the detriment of fishermen in Northern Ireland, whereas its invocation in the west of Scotland and the North sea can bring considerable benefits to the UK when TACs are restricted.

We will invoke the Hague preference whenever it is in our interest to do so. We recognise that fishermen from Northern Ireland often lose out because of the Irish invocation, and the Government will seek to minimise the losses by counter-invoking and by swapping in additional quotas from other member states. The hon. Member for South Down also referred to bilateral communication and discussions between the UK Government and Ireland; those are happening at a senior level through the Northern Ireland Office.

17 Dec 1997 : Column 397

My hon. Friend the Member for Waveney (Mr. Blizzard) expressed concern about the impact of effort control on the beam trawl segment, and other hon. Members made the same point about the pelagic segment. I want to make the point as strongly as I can that we are talking about effort control, not about cutting capacity permanently. We want to sit down with the industry and try to work out a system of effort control. We hope that those in the industry will work with us and with each other to avoid a compulsory approach and develop one that is co-operative and has the flexibility that many hon. Members said that they wanted.

On ring-fencing the pelagic segment, it is important to make the point that the changes to the licensing system will be quite complex, and that some aspects will take effect from today, to prevent action by vessel owners who might try to undermine the effect of the ring fence. We will not allow that.

Opposition Members spoke about decommissioning and expressed surprised that we were not making commitments beyond a comprehensive spending review. None of them mentioned the fact that we have managed to provide an additional £2.6 million for decommissioning since May. That money has gone a long way towards achieving our targets under MAGP III. The scale of financing any future decommissioning, and the ways in which it will be funded, will be decided following the outcome of the comprehensive spending review on fisheries that is currently under way.

Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), mentioned discards. At the October Fisheries Council, we were able to secure a new regulation that will both change the rules on fishing gear construction and give fishermen greater flexibility in meeting catch composition rules. That will come fully into force in two years' time. We are pressing the question of square mesh panels, which my hon. Friend raised, as part of the conservation measures that we are pursuing.

I shall respond by letter to some of the other points that have been raised. In conclusion, we are taking serious steps to tackle the fundamental problems that beset the fishing industry. These steps have been set out by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. On that basis, I commend the motion to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 153, Noes 378.

Division No. 121
[7.59 pm


Ainsworth, Peter (E Surrey)
Amess, David
Ancram, Rt Hon Michael
Arbuthnot, James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beggs, Roy
Bercow, John
Beresford, Sir Paul
Blunt, Crispin
Body, Sir Richard
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clappison, James
Clark, Rt Hon Alan (Kensington)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Colvin, Michael
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cran, James
Curry, Rt Hon David
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Davis, Rt Hon David (Haltemprice)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Duncan, Alan
Duncan Smith, Iain
Evans, Nigel
Faber, David
Fabricant, Michael
Fallon, Michael
Flight, Howard
Forsythe, Clifford
Forth, Rt Hon Eric
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gibb, Nick
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Goodlad, Rt Hon Sir Alastair
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Grieve, Dominic
Gummer, Rt Hon John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Hawkins, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heathcoat-Amory, Rt Hon David
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas
Horam, John
Howard, Rt Hon Michael
Howarth, Gerald (Aldershot)
Hunter, Andrew
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Johnson Smith,
Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Kirkbride, Miss Julie
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Lansley, Andrew
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
MacGregor, Rt Hon John
MacKay, Andrew
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Moss, Malcolm
Nicholls, Patrick
Norman, Archie
Ottaway, Richard
Page, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Prior, David
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Ruffley, David
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Shepherd, Richard
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Soames, Nicholas
Spelman, Mrs Caroline
Spicer, Sir Michael
Spring, Richard
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Steen, Anthony
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Taylor, Sir Teddy
Thompson, William
Townend, John
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Trimble, David
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Walter, Robert
Wardle, Charles
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Widdecombe, Rt Hon Miss Ann
Wilkinson, John
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Woodward, Shaun
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. John M. Taylor and
Mr. John Whittingdale.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Alexander, Douglas
Allan, Richard
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Anderson, Janet (Rossendale)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashdown, Rt Hon Paddy
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Baker, Norman
Ballard, Mrs Jackie
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beard, Nigel
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Begg, Miss Anne
Bell, Stuart (Middlesbrough)
Benn, Rt Hon Tony
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Best, Harold
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Buck, Ms Karen
Burgon, Colin
Burstow, Paul
Butler, Mrs Christine
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Canavan, Dennis
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chidgey, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cook, Rt Hon Robin (Livingston)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cotter, Brian
Cousins, Jim
Cranston, Ross
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cryer, John (Hornchurch)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
Dalyell, Tam
Davey, Edward (Kingston)
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Davies, Rt Hon Ron (Caerphilly)
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H)
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dismore, Andrew
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Dowd, Jim
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Edwards, Huw
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fatchett, Derek
Fearn, Ronnie
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Don (Bath)
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
George, Andrew (St Ives)
George, Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Norman A
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
Gorrie, Donald
Griffiths, Jane (Reading E)
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Grocott, Bruce
Grogan, John
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hamilton, Fabian (Leeds NE)
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Healey, John
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hodge, Ms Margaret
Hoey, Kate
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hoon, Geoffrey
Hope, Phil
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Hoyle, Lindsay
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keetch, Paul
Kelly, Ms Ruth
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kirkwood, Archy
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Lawrence, Ms Jackie
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Liddell, Mrs Helen
Linton, Martin
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McCartney, Ian (Makerfield)
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McFall, John
McGrady, Eddie
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
Mackinlay, Andrew
Maclennan, Rt Hon Robert
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Marshall-Andrews, Robert
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Meale, Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moore, Michael
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Mountford, Kali
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
Oaten, Mark
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Öpik, Lembit
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Palmer, Dr Nick
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Prescott, Rt Hon John
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reid, Dr John (Hamilton N)
Rendel, David
Robertson, Rt Hon George
(Hamilton S)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Russell, Ms Christine (Chester)
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Shipley, Ms Debra
Short, Rt Hon Clare
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, David (Inverness E)
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stoate, Dr Howard
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Swinney, John
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Desmond (Kemptown)
Turner, Dr George (NW Norfolk)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tyler, Paul
Vaz, Keith
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew
White, Brian
Wicks, Malcolm
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Clive Betts and
Mr. Jon Owen Jones.

Question accordingly negatived.

17 Dec 1997 : Column 401

Main Question put:--

The House divided: Ayes 360, Noes 150.

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