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Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton): I welcome the debate, although I do not know how many fishing debates the UnderSecretary has introduced and wound up. He seems to have been fisheries spokesman man and boy, in opposition and in government. He probably feels that way too.
Let me echo what the Minister said, and express our deepest sympathy for the families of the nine fishermen who lost their lives this year. We must also not forget those injured at sea during the past year.
Mr. Salmond: I think that we missed the full import of the hon. Lady's attack on the Scottish pelagic sector, which is generally recognised to be one of the most successful management regimes ever, and the most responsible. Will she explain in more detail why she is developing this anti-Scottish attitude? I should have thought that her party was in enough trouble north of the border.
Mrs. Winterton: Let me tell the hon. Gentleman that he is talking to someone who is half-Scottish. He will have to do a damn sight better than that. Perhaps I should remind him of the minutes of the meeting of the pelagic sub-committee of the Shetland Fishermen's Association, which took place on 21 September. I shall quote from
Mrs. Winterton: I want to make some progress. The hon. Gentleman will probably want to intervene later, when I start dealing with the part of the world that he represents. [Interruption.] I know that he represents Orkney and Shetland. I shall deal with issues relating to that area later: that is precisely what I meant a few minutes ago. I wish that Labour Members would not get so excited. They should settle down and do a bit of listening.
The situation today is exactly the same as that which was clearly explained here, during debates in 1971 and 1972, by Labour Membersthe now Lord Healey, and the late Lords Shore and Jay. The Commission's press release of 4 December confirms its intention to
Mr. Morley: I shall not defend the workings of the current common fisheries policy, which certainly need to be changed. Let me put the hon. Lady right on one point, however. I refer to the assertion, well known in the fishing industry, that we will all have to have European fishing permits. The permits required by the treaty of Corfu are already in effect, and apply to western waters management. They have not been used to supersede national permits or control, and they will not be: there is no reason why they should be.
Another issue that often causes concern is coastal limits. It is not true that there is a veto. Unless anyone challenges them, coastal limits will automatically be "rolled over" after 2002. Even if they are challenged, qualified majority voting will be involvedand I have no doubt that a qualified majority is in favour of retaining coastal limits.
Mrs. Winterton: I am sure that the fishing industry will be glad of those assurancesassurances about a matter that is yet to be decided. The Minister referred to qualified majority voting; I am pleased that he is confident of obtaining support in the numbers he requires, but I must admit to remaining concerned about the position. I shall wait to see whether he can deliver what he says he can deliver, but I believe that the case that I have presented is absolutely correct.
The Prime Minister surely cannot believe that wiping out the British fishing industry and marine stocks is in Britain's interests. No wonder the Liberal Democrats' spokesman for environment, food and rural affairs challenged the Government to put the environment at the heart of policy in an article in the September edition of The Parliamentary Monitor. Unfortunately, the Liberal Democrat policy proposes a lot of mini-CFPs. We can only conclude that both the Liberal Democrats and the Prime Minister indirectly support the dumping of dead prime fish back in the seawhich will cause pollutionthe breaking of the marine food chain, and the marketing of baby fish in southern Europe.
The present quota system has one more year to run. The system, which is in itself a derogation from equal access to a common resource, will have run its course on 31 December 2002. Today's debate takes place just before the Minister goes to negotiate the new TACs, and other matters, at the Council of Fisheries Ministers. As he said, the Commission has already announced further devastating cuts to quotas as a basis for discussioncuts that fall below even what scientists have recommended.
There is an established pattern to those negotiations, which means that whatever concessions the Minister can wring out on behalf of the UK will be considered to be an improvement on the worst case scenario. Let us not be fooled. The situation is dire and we are witnessing the slow death of our industry by a thousand cuts.
The direct result of those quota decisions will be yet further dumping. That unhappy practice, together with juvenile discards, was highlighted more than a decade ago by the industry and included in the Commission's 1991 report. Since then, little progress has been made because of the rigidity of the system. I hope that the editorial comment in last week's Fishing News is correct and a more balanced view will be taken. The editorial stated:
The inadequacy and patent lack of uniformity in the enforcement regimes across the EU have been apparent for many years. The Commission has been aware of these failures for years but they have still not been addressed."