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9.50 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Calum Macdonald): I am very pleased to wind up the debate this evening. It has ranged widely, and for the most part constructively, across many aspects of fisheries policy. I shall respond to the specific issues raised by hon. Members, but first, I should like to refer to an important point that was made by several hon. Members. Like them, I acknowledge the special nature of the fishing industry which I know well from my constituency. Fishing is a dangerous occupation, and fishermen have often paid a heavy price for reaping the harvest of the sea. We should never lose sight of that.

Indeed, in my constituency during the past weekend, a 28-year-old fishermen, Donald Morrison, was lost in a tragic accident while fishing. I am sure that the whole House will join me in extending sympathy to his family and to the families of others who have lost their lives during the past year.

I shall now turn to some of the points made in the debate. I know that many fishermen believe that they have much to contribute to the management of the stocks, and even to the scientific assessment of the stocks. I know, too, that they are frustrated by the variations in the total allowable catches and quotas. They find it difficult to cope with such variations which disrupt their markets. Undoubtedly, they would like greater stability in the total allowable catches. Many hon. Members made that point, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, Central (Mr. Doran).

In managing the stocks, we need to take full account of those very justifiable concerns. However, at the same time, we need to take account of the scientific evidence about fish stocks and their future viability. We cannot just ignore that evidence, no matter how disappointing it might be for a particular stock in a particular year.

I can assure the House that the Government will do all we can in the negotiations ahead to get the best possible deal for British fishermen consistent with long-term sustainability of fishing stocks. We shall not hesitate to invoke the Hague preference, when that would be in the interests of the industry. However, we must also ensure

15 Dec 1998 : Column 867

that, once the Fisheries Council has decided the TACs and the quotas--which it will do with regard both to the scientific advice, which is important, and to the wider economic implications--they are respected in practice by all fishermen.

It would be appropriate to say something about devolution, given the significance of the debate as we are about to enter a new era for fisheries management within the United Kingdom. In previous debates, some hon. Members expressed the view that devolution will mean that Scotland will lose its voice in fisheries management, especially at the European level. Others fear that the Scottish Parliament will fail to respect UK obligations or, in pursuing the interests of Scottish fishermen, will discriminate against fishermen from other parts of the UK. I am sure that both those anxieties will prove to be unfounded. Devolution will help us to deliver local solutions to local problems across the United Kingdom.

Mr. Salmond: Will a Scottish Fisheries Minister in the Scottish Parliament be able to lead a United Kingdom delegation to the Fisheries Council, as the Foreign Secretary suggested when he was in Edinburgh last January?

Mr. Macdonald: I assure hon. Members that Scottish Ministers will continue to be able to attend Fisheries Council meetings as part of the United Kingdom team. There is no reason why they cannot lead delegations, as appropriate. They can do that now, and the position remains unchanged.

Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford): Will the Minister give way?

Mr. Macdonald: I had better not, as I have further points to make.

My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, Central referred to important matters that affect the wider industry, particularly the processing sector. The industry has expressed concern about increased water charges in my hon. Friend's constituency and elsewhere in the area. It is important to note that other parts of the United Kingdom have faced similar increases. The North of Scotland water authority is in discussions with industry representatives, and I hope that it will be able to clarify the options for the industry. I understand also that the Sea Fish Industry Authority is consulting the industry about practical ideas for reducing the volume of waste, which is the best way of tackling that problem in the long term.

Several hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), referred to the safety of old boats and the need for investment in new boats. The industry is concerned about the safety of older fishing boats, and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary addressed that issue squarely in his speech. He made it clear that he and the Scottish Fisheries Minister are prepared to meet industry representatives to discuss practical ways of addressing the issue.

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Hon. Members also referred to the provisions of the working time directive and how they apply to fishermen. I stress that the Government are committed to the principles of the directive on health and safety grounds. We believe that they are important. However, the Government have made it clear that any proposals to extend them to sea fishing must take account of the practical and commercial realities of the industry, including the share fishermen system. The Commission's latest proposals show that it is taking those factors into account. Officials from the various Departments concerned will continue to keep in close touch with the industry regarding the proposals.

My hon. Friend the Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) called for better enforcement across Europe. She is correct to say that the Government looked for and welcome the improved control measures proposed for adoption later this week at the Fisheries Council meeting in Brussels. Proposed amendments in the regulations provide for, among other things, a number of improvements in control at the point of landing and in relation to the sale and transport of fish. We welcome the European Commission's efforts to encourage co-operation and consistency of enforcement across the Union.

Several hon. Members referred to the precautionary approach. That is a sensible principle. It is the first year in which it has been advanced, and we recognise that more work must be done before we can rely solidly on that new approach.

Perhaps the most striking contribution to tonight's debate was the speech by the hon. Member for Teignbridge (Mr. Nicholls), who opened for the Opposition. He launched a fierce and relentless attack on the past policies of his party in government but, unfortunately, offered no credible alternative to quota management. The problem is not the CFP, but the need to manage limited and finite stocks. We must face that reality, and we shall approach the forthcoming negotiations on that basis.

Mr. Andrew George: I beg to move--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. It is not necessary for the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. George) to put the Question, as the House has agreed that the vote will be taken at 10 o'clock.

Mr. Macdonald: I have reached the end of my remarks. I commend the motion to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:--

The House divided: Ayes 50, Noes 340.

Division No. 24
[10 pm


Allan, Richard
Beggs, Roy
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Brake, Tom
Brand, Dr Peter
Breed, Colin
Bruce, Malcolm (Gordon)
Burnett, John
Campbell, Menzies (NE Fife)
Chidgey, David
Cotter, Brian
Cunningham, Ms Roseanna
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fearn, Ronnie
Foster, Don (Bath)
George, Andrew (St Ives)
Gorrie, Donald
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Dr Evan
Harvey, Nick
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Hughes, Simon (Southwark N)
Jones, Ieuan Wyn (Ynys Mon)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)
Kennedy, Charles (Ross Skye)
Kirkwood, Archy
Livsey, Richard
Llwyd, Elfyn
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Moore, Michael
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Oaten, Mark
Öpik, Lembit
Rendel, David
Ross, William (E Lond'y)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
Salmond, Alex
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Sir Robert (W Ab'd'ns)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Stunell, Andrew
Taylor, Rt Hon John D (Strangford)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thompson, William
Tonge, Dr Jenny
Tyler, Paul
Wallace, James
Webb, Steve
Welsh, Andrew

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Edward Davey and
Mr. Phil Willis.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Adams, Mrs Irene (Paisley N)
Ainger, Nick
Alexander, Douglas
Anderson, Donald (Swansea E)
Armstrong, Ms Hilary
Ashton, Joe
Atherton, Ms Candy
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
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
Berry, Roger
Best, Harold
Betts, Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blears, Ms Hazel
Blizzard, Bob
Blunkett, Rt Hon David
Boateng, Paul
Borrow, David
Bradley, Keith (Withington)
Bradley, Peter (The Wrekin)
Bradshaw, Ben
Brinton, Mrs Helen
Brown, Rt Hon Nick (Newcastle E)
Brown, Russell (Dumfries)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Burgon, Colin
Butler, Mrs Christine
Byers, Rt Hon Stephen
Caborn, Richard
Campbell, Alan (Tynemouth)
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Casale, Roger
Caton, Martin
Cawsey, Ian
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Dr Lynda
(Edinburgh Pentlands)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Tony (Northampton S)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Cohen, Harry
Coleman, Iain
Colman, Tony
Connarty, Michael
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Corston, Ms Jean
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunliffe, Lawrence
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Curtis-Thomas, Mrs Claire
Darvill, Keith
Davey, Valerie (Bristol W)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davies, Geraint (Croydon C)
Dawson, Hilton
Dean, Mrs Janet
Denham, John
Dewar, Rt Hon Donald
Dismore, Andrew
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Drew, David
Drown, Ms Julia
Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Edwards, Huw
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Fitzsimons, Lorna
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Rt Hon Derek
Foster, Michael Jabez (Hastings)
Foster, Michael J (Worcester)
Foulkes, George
Fyfe, Maria
Galloway, George
Gapes, Mike
Gerrard, Neil
Gilroy, Mrs Linda
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Gordon, Mrs Eileen
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)
Heal, Mrs Sylvia
Healey, John
Henderson, Ivan (Harwich)
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hesford, Stephen
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Home Robertson, John
Hood, Jimmy
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hoyle, Lindsay
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hurst, Alan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Jackson, Ms Glenda (Hampstead)
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Mrs Fiona (Newark)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Ms Tessa
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Kemp, Fraser
Kennedy, Jane (Wavertree)
Khabra, Piara S
Kidney, David
Kilfoyle, Peter
King, Andy (Rugby & Kenilworth)
Kingham, Ms Tess
Kumar, Dr Ashok
Ladyman, Dr Stephen
Laxton, Bob
Lepper, David
Leslie, Christopher
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Linton, Martin
Livingstone, Ken
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
Love, Andrew
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Ms Chris
McDonagh, Siobhain
Macdonald, Calum
McDonnell, John
McGuire, Mrs Anne
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
MacShane, Denis
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marek, Dr John
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marsden, Paul (Shrewsbury)
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)
Milburn, Alan
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Morgan, Ms Julie (Cardiff N)
Morgan, Rhodri (Cardiff W)
Morley, Elliot
Morris, Ms Estelle (B'ham Yardley)
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Murphy, Paul (Torfaen)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
O'Brien, Mike (N Warks)
O'Hara, Eddie
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Organ, Mrs Diana
Osborne, Ms Sandra
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Tom
Perham, Ms Linda
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Plaskitt, James
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Radice, Giles
Rammell, Bill
Rapson, Syd
Raynsford, Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Reid, Rt Hon Dr John (Hamilton N)
Robinson, Geoffrey (Cov'try NW)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rooker, Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Ruane, Chris
Ruddock, Ms Joan
Ryan, Ms Joan
Salter, Martin
Savidge, Malcolm
Sawford, Phil
Sedgemore, Brian
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Singh, Marsha
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Rt Hon Chris (Islington S)
Smith, Miss Geraldine
(Morecambe & Lunesdale)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Snape, Peter
Soley, Clive
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Stinchcombe, Paul
Stoate, Dr Howard
Stott, Roger
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Stuart, Ms Gisela
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, Ms Dari (Stockton S)
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Thomas, Gareth (Clwyd W)
Thomas, Gareth R (Harrow W)
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Truswell, Paul
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Dr Desmond (Kemptown)
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
White, Brian
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Alan W (E Carmarthen)
Winnick, David
Wise, Audrey
Wood, Mike
Woolas, Phil
Worthington, Tony
Wray, James
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Dr Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Jim Dowd and
Mr. Robert Ainsworth.

Question accordingly negatived.

15 Dec 1998 : Column 871

Main Question put:--

The House divided: Ayes 377, Noes 129.

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