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Mr. Morley: I do understand why, but I ask the hon. Gentleman to consider what I am about to say. Of course, we discussed with the Scottish Parliament the impact that such a measure would have on Scottish trawlers--there is no doubt that it will severely limit their catching opportunities--but we think that it is justified because of conservation. However, we also had to consider the practical issues. A limit of 15 tonnes a month is less than 5 tonnes a week, but it would mean that a vessel taking a large haul would not have large discards. We are taking into account management and the potential impact of discards, which we are trying to minimise. We think that that is a fair point and that fishermen who understand bass, how they shoal and how a large haul can be caught, accept it. The hon. Gentleman should bear in mind the fact that the limit will take a lot of pressure off the stocks, and that has been welcomed.

We also hope to see progress on industrial fishing, which is a matter of great concern. I am very hopeful that, with the agreement of Denmark, we will be able to announce the first closed area for industrial fishing in the North sea. It will extend from north Northumberland to beyond Fraserburgh. The closure will eliminate the competition between fishermen and sea birds. We are using the science provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, based on the impact of sea birds. Issues such as migrating salmon and white fish stocks also play a part.

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I want to pay tribute to the Danish Minister. This is a sensitive issue, but he has approached it in a spirit of co-operation and considered the scientific and conservation aspects. We are optimistic that we will get Denmark's support for the measure at this week's Council. It will be the first time that we have introduced measures to restrict industrial fishing. It is also an example of integration of environmental and fisheries management which we were called upon to carry out by the Cologne European Council. We take that issue seriously and are trying to apply some of the points.

Fisheries management and enforcement measures have also been introduced this year. When I became Minister two years ago, black fish was a serious problem. It depressed prices at fishing ports and had a devastating effect on stocks. We had to take firm action, and I make no apology for doing so because it is in the long-term interests of fishermen and the fishing industry. In January, our new designated ports system was introduced--there are now prior notification arrangements for all white fish landings made by vessels of more than 20 m.

Mrs. Margaret Ewing (Moray): Against the background of satellite tracking, is there still the same need for designated ports?

Mr. Morley: I shall talk about tracking in a moment. I accept that the installation of satellites gives us an opportunity to review vessels' control measures and bureaucracy and may give us an opportunity to relax those measures. As for designated ports, even if we know where vessels are, someone still needs to be able to carry out an inspection, or at least have the right to do so. I assure the hon. Lady that we understand that satellites can provide flexibility in reducing burdens and we want to consider carefully how to do that.

We have also tackled engine power and put in place measures to require the accurate declaration of engine power, which we believe to be essential to a level playing field in the United Kingdom and if measures to limit fishing are to be effective. However, as we recognise that there are practical issues relating to engine power, we have made generous transitional arrangements for fishermen who need to take action to correct deficits in their registered and licensed engine power. I believe that we can make progress on that.

As the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) said, satellites will come in from January for vessels more than 24 m long. More than 100 vessels are linked to our monitoring system and a further 250 are in the process of linking up. The system will apply to all EU vessels of that size that fish in our waters. Norway is also voluntarily applying the system to its vessels, and I welcome that action. There is an issue of enforcement, but there are benefits for fishermen's equipment, and safety implications arise from the knowledge of where vessels are around our coast.

From January, fixed quota allocations were introduced following the suggestion of the industry. The idea is to provide greater certainty within the industry, and fishermen should no longer be under pressure to maximise their catches simply to maintain a track record for the maximisation of quota. That will bring benefits. Producer

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organisations are more willing to make quota available to overcome problems in other parts of the fleet. The UK is likely to remain within its quota allocation for almost all stocks.

We shall review the operations of FQAs with the industry early in the new year, taking into account helpful recommendations from the Agriculture Committee on rules on the transfer of licences and quota, issues of ownership, and provision for new entrants, as well as the question of individual transferable quotas, which the Committee has asked us to consider.

Since 1 January, we have made it a licence condition that every UK-registered fishing vessel must demonstrate an economic link with this country. Contrary to the expectations of many, those arrangements are having a significant impact. Landings and related expenditure into the UK have increased. In some cases, additional quota has been made available, such as 50 tonnes of sole in the North sea, and we have allocated it to the inshore fishing fleet. Overall, the number of so-called quota hoppers has declined since the economic link measure was introduced.

That is a far more effective system than the factor10 system was. The previous Government enacted the Merchant Shipping Act 1988, which was designed to address the quota-hopping problem. However, it addressed the problem in the wrong way, partly because it was driven by Europhobia and attitudes against other nationalities, rather than addressing the real management issues surrounding the problem. As a result of legal action, the UK is liable for damages for vessels illegally prevented from fishing after the 1988 Act's introduction. Many figures have been bandied about, but the court case has established only the right of vessels affected to claim compensation for the period during which they were prevented from fishing. It is up to the vessels to demonstrate the amount of the loss. It would be wrong, therefore, to say that an automatic sum of money should be made available for compensation.

Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire): As my hon. Friend knows, I used to represent several quota hoppers before the boundary commission intervened. On the measures introduced this year, what action will the Government take against quota hoppers that have not satisfied the criteria? Is my hon. Friend aware that several people in my former constituency believe that they can provide evidence showing that the fishing efforts being claimed by some quota hoppers were somewhat dubious?

Mr. Morley: I understand that point, and the matter must be examined carefully. It is up to the claimants to prove their claims.

On vessels that have not complied with the economic link conditions, regulations make it crystal clear that compliance is a licence condition. Any vessel that does not comply will have its licence confiscated. We have reviewed licensing, and I look forward to receiving a comprehensive report from an industry body, which will consider matters including capacity, penalty, aggregation and the sectors of the fleet that are within their multi-annual guidance programmes.

We shall also deal with the under-10 m fleet, an issue with which I have always had much sympathy. We have published a comprehensive consultation paper on the

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management of the inshore fleet to try to find a strategy for the way forward. Some hon. Members will be aware that there have been some problems in the inshore fleet with this year's nephrops fishery--its expansion and the need to introduce management controls. Although we want to avoid lengthy and harmful closures in the under-10 m fleet, I cannot guarantee that that will always be possible--especially if effort continues to rise.

I am glad to see the investment that has taken place in the inshore fleet, but the problem is that many of the new boats are immensely more powerful than the boats that they have replaced; they are faster and more effective. That causes problems because we need to manage effort so as to stop it increasing. We need to consider those matters.

Many of the matters that I have mentioned involve new regulations and procedures, because much had to be done during the past two years. Many new measures had to be introduced--some of them were UK measures, to deal with particular problems, and some were European. I realise that they imposed burdens on the industry--I am sensitive to that. For that reason, we have asked officials to convene an early meeting with the industry to consider all aspects of regulation and bureaucracy, as well as issues such as the new satellites. We shall consider whether we can use that new technology to reduce some of the burdens on the industry. We take the matter seriously and we want to deal with it.

Mr. A. J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed): There is one more issue that the Minister might add to his list, although it crosses Departments. It should interest him that the smallest fishermen are having great difficulty with the old share fishermen's stamp system. They find that jobseeker's allowance is not available to them when dreadful weather prevents them from fishing. Those are the very people who have been pushed to the margins by the larger and faster vessels to which the Minister referred.

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