Previous SectionIndexHome Page

Mr. Morley: I accept my hon. Friend's comments. The industry has been responsible and has genuinely

6 Dec 2001 : Column 503

participated in the recovery plans, and we appreciate its input. There are encouraging signs for cod, and it would be helpful if the industry could experience some benefits from its sacrifices. We will argue for that strongly with the Commission.

We have asked the industry for its reactions to the proposals. We will take time to examine them all in detail and consider their implications. As I have said, we intend to work with the industry and other member states to ensure that we bring about a fair, effective, reasoned and reasonable end to the negotiations, which will be difficult.

The attitude in the Council of Ministers has changed for the better. There is a much more serious attitude towards following the science. The Commission is not in the game of bumping up figures arbitrarily so that they can be negotiated down and presented as an improvement. It will not be easy to get the Commission to move from the proposals because it is adamant that it is in the business of sustainability and protecting fish stocks. We share that ambition, but I repeat that the proposals must be based on good science, and a case has to be sound to convince the industry, which will ultimately have to make sacrifices for the recoveries. Persuading the Commission of that view will be one of our primary objectives in the negotiations.

Deep water species and TACs are of interest to some hon. Members. Last year, we rejected the idea of quotas for a range of species, although we accept that there is serious anxiety about the state of deep water stocks. We support management that is based on effort-control regimes rather than on simply allocating quotas. We believe that the latter would encourage increased fishing to bump up track records on quotas.

It should also be taken into account that some of the deep water fisheries are used by non-EU fleets. It would therefore be better to bring them under the control of regional fisheries organisations—the North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission in the case that we are considering—to ensure proper management of the stocks.

The Government generally support third country fisheries agreements because they maintain traditional fishing opportunities for EU distant water vessels and provide socio-economic benefits for some regions that depend on fisheries. They also allow third countries to realise the value of fisheries resources that they do not wish or are unable to exploit. However, there is an important caveat. Third country agreements should provide value for money to the Community, promote environmentally sustainable fishing, which means proper enforcement and management, and be coherent in the context of Community development objectives for third countries.

Some agreements need to be examined closely for their benefits. We benefit from third country agreements such as the Greenland fishery agreement, which is especially important to the UK. We must ensure that the Community does not export its surplus fishing capacity to developing countries, which are often unable to monitor fishing effectively and/or do damage to marine ecosystems. For many developing countries, fish provides a substantial and vital source of protein. Fishing agreements must not jeopardise that source.

6 Dec 2001 : Column 504

Developing countries increasingly want to develop their fishing industries, and we should support that. There are opportunities for co-operation and joint agreements between EU member states and fleets and those developing countries.

Sir Robert Smith (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine): I acknowledge the importance of the Minister's last point. However, if we are to have sustainable fisheries in our waters, the Government must recognise that they are part of the problem because they license more capacity than the waters can sustain. They should consider ways in which they can be part of the solution, and decommission the excess capacity so that there is a balance between our fishing fleet and sustainability.

Mr. Morley: That is a fair point, and I shall deal with this year's decommissioning round shortly.

The Commission has produced a Green Paper on the review of the common fisheries policy. Hon. Members are familiar with its contents. It goes a long way towards tackling many anxieties that hon. Members have expressed over the years and proposes the sort of changes to the CFP that we support. The Green Paper pulls no punches; it is a frank and well-balanced critique of the CFP. It points out its deficiencies, including poor stock conservation, the use of often inappropriate subsidies, and uneven control and enforcement, while making a strong case for a common policy on fisheries conservation, which is important in EU waters.

Recent difficulties in fisheries management mean that I am more convinced than ever of the need for a common conservation policy. We cannot manage fish stocks unilaterally.

Mr. Salmond: The Minister is enthusiastic about the Green Paper. I understand that because it is probably the best document from the Commission on fishing for a generation, although there is nothing much with which to compare it. None the less, his enthusiasm is noted. Is he enthusiastic about the Green Paper's reference to substantially enhanced payments not only for decommissioning but for tie-up funding? If he supports large parts of the document, will the Government consider that aspect of the Green Paper?

Mr. Morley: The hon. Gentleman knows my views on tie-up money. Although I have an open mind about any approach, we must consider carefully the most appropriate use of public moneys, the priorities for its use and the justification for schemes. I remain to be convinced that tie-up grants are the best way forward. I suspect that the debate on that will continue.

I want some elements of the CFP to be retained. I am sure that that applies to other hon. Members. For example, the case for the six and 12-mile limits is so overwhelming that I have argued for them to be made permanent. They are important for safeguarding the needs of the inshore fleet. We need to take its needs into account. The limits also make sense from a conservation perspective. No one supports the end of relative stability, including the Hague preference. They are important elements of the CFP, which offer security to the industry, especially in difficult

6 Dec 2001 : Column 505

times. The Commission and other member states also support relative stability and I am confident that that will continue into 2003 and beyond.

Andrew George: Does the Minister agree that, following the publication of the Green Paper, future debates on fishing in the House should be considerably more mature? We spent much time in the past speculating on whether we would be able to retain the six and 12-mile limits and relative stability. We can now move forward and stop wasting so much time speculating on dire scenarios.

Mr. Morley: I agree with the hon. Gentleman. There are far too many scare stories about what is going to happen after 2002. I suspect that, when we reach agreement, some of the darker stories that we have been hearing will be shown to have been yet more of the Euro-myths that we have had to listen to for many years.

We are arguing strongly for greater involvement by the fishing industry in the way in which the CFP operates—but not only the fishing industry. No one would dispute that the industry is the primary stakeholder in the policy, but there is also a role for environmentalists, consumers, sport fishermen and members of the general public, who have an interest in the health of our seas and in marine biodiversity.

One of the strengths of the new Department in which I serve—the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs—is that sustainability is at the heart of everything that it does and of all the policies that it is trying to develop. There is no contradiction between the objectives of environmentalists—healthy and strong marine biodiversity—and of the fishing industry, which has every interest in marine conservation and biodiversity.

For the House's information, the timetable for the review has shifted slightly in recent months. The European Parliament has been unable to complete its report on the CFP, and the Commission rightly wishes to hear the Parliament's opinion before proceeding. I therefore expect the Commission communication to be produced in January next year. The communication will set out recommendations for subsequent legislative proposals for decision by the end of 2002.

We do not yet have a full idea of the proposals that the Commission intends to produce, but it has said that we should expect them to cover multi-annual TAC setting—a policy that has been raised many times in debate, and one that the UK strongly supports. The proposals could also cover access, fleet structure, control and external issues. That shows that the Commission is moving in the right direction, and I shall offer it every encouragement in its efforts to forge a new, more meaningful, more flexible common fisheries policy that takes much greater account of the regional differences between the various fishing fleets of the European Union.

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby): With regard to the proposals from the Commission, has my hon. Friend been able to determine what level of consultation will take place in our fishing communities around the coast—the key stakeholders that he mentioned earlier? Such consultation would enable our fishing communities to feel that proper account had been taken of their feelings in relation to the Commission's proposals.

Next Section

IndexHome Page