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Mr. Morley rose

Mr. Mitchell: I hope that my hon. Friend will not complicate the matter—I do not understand the Luxembourg agreement.

Mr. Morley: The loss of the Moroccan fisheries agreement is very comparable to the United Kingdom's loss of the Iceland fishery, in which case it is a complete fishery gone—there is nowhere for the boats to go. In those circumstances, there was a lot of Government compensation for the distant-water fleets. The compensation for the crews was not very fair, but my hon. Friend and my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) and for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood (Mrs. Humble) played a very important role in putting right that wrong under this Government.

Mr. Mitchell: That is certainly true, and the fishermen and the industry are grateful that that happened; it was right that it should happen. However, the point that I am making is that Spain is getting compensation from Europe now because the fishing has stopped now, and that compensation is more generous than that paid to the British industry. It is certainly more generous than that paid to the British fishermen—they got nothing when that happened in 1976. We did not get an allowance for the loss of those waters in subsequent quotas and catches.

There is a need to support and help the industry. When the industry is forced to obey European measures, it should not be hit by a refusal to pay European compensation or British Government money. The Treasury shows no sign of understanding the economic importance or the relevance of fishing.

Bob Spink: The hon. Gentleman speaks with great authority and passion and I always enjoy listening to him. Of course, the Opposition agree that we must adequately compensate our fishermen, but he is avoiding the root cause of the problem. Surely he, above all people, will accept that the cause of the problem over the past 20 years has been the common fisheries policy, which has failed. It has failed our fishing communities and the fishermen

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themselves, and it has failed to conserve fish stocks. Our industry has been decimated by Europe. Is it not about time that he came clean for his constituents and agreed that the best way forward now is not to tinker with that policy, as the Labour Government will do—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Interventions should be brief. Perhaps the hon. Gentleman could come to the point.

Bob Spink: Instead, the Government should follow a Conservative policy by establishing area sector controls and national controls for this country so that we can conserve our stocks.

Mr. Mitchell: Flattery will get the hon. Gentleman a long way, but it will not get me to support Conservative party policy. I have to point out to him that the Conservative Government did nothing about this issue. In 1972, the Conservative Government sold the pass on the common fisheries policy, as the memoir written by the appropriately named Sir Con O'Neill showed at the time. He was asked to abdicate the fight over the common fisheries policy so that he could move towards getting the greater good, which was entry, and nothing has been done since.

In passing, I have to agree that life would be much easier if we could control our own destinies—I would like that, too—because we controlled our own waters. That is why other industries have been more successful than ours, and why it has faced those difficulties. The hon. Gentleman's flattery has got me to admit that much any way, but the point that I am making is more simple than that. When those measures bite and are successful, catches will begin to increase, the preservation plans will work and we shall have more cod and hake, but if we are to encourage the industry to survive, we have to help it financially through the transition.

I am delighted that the NFFO and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation have co-operated with the World Wide Fund for Nature in its cost-benefit study on the benefits of investing in fishing. I emphasise the word "investment", because my hon. Friend the Minister has said that he will not support vessels to do nothing or tie-up schemes, but this is about investment in the industry's future. That study shows—this is a preliminary indication only—that investment of £590 million over 10 years will produce a return 14 times that sum in the increase in the British industry's catches.

The value of those catches will increase to £7.638 billion as a consequence of that investment. That really is investment, and we should make an intelligent case for it. Such a case will not necessarily appeal to the Treasury—muscle is more important there—but the industry is producing an intelligent case for that investment, and I hope that my hon. Friend and the Treasury will consider it seriously.

Usually, in fisheries debates, I urge my hon. Friend to take a strong stand. I know that he will; he has committed himself to doing so and the industry trusts him. It is fed up with Europe, true, but it trusts him because it knows that he understands the industry and that he will fight the cuts, but he has to do other things as well. He is as

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concerned about industrial fishing as I am and he will oppose it. Industrial fishing is a disaster when we are trying to build up stocks because of the by-catches.

An item in the Fishing News, about which I wrote to my hon. Friend in October, states that one Danish industrial vessel was tied up for catching too much immature haddock in its by-catches. The Grimsby Fish Producers Organisation worked out that that 114-tonne industrial catch of juvenile fish, which was landed illegally in Denmark, would have amounted to 912 tonnes of mature fish if they had been allowed to grow. That is a third more than the entire Grimsby haddock quota of 600 tonnes.

Those are the figures, and they show what was ruined and the damage done to the stocks by industrial fishing. If that estimate is increased to cover 40 vessels, to make allowance for the scale of other catches, the fish that did not grow to maturity would have equalled the United Kingdom's entire 40,000-tonne haddock quota. That is terrible and frightening, and it is a direct consequence of industrial fishing, so I hope that we can ban such fishing because we cannot have effective conservation without stopping industrial fishing.

I also hope that my hon. Friend will invoke The Hague preference to protect our catches. The very small increase in the total allowable catch for North sea cod will leave the share of United Kingdom cod below the trigger point, so we can invoke The Hague preference and should do so for those areas that are dependent on fishing. Unfortunately, they are north of Grimsby, but I am making an altruistic gesture.

My hon. Friend knows the importance of research, but we should attach enormous importance to more research. Frankly, we do not know what is going on. Other hon. Members have mentioned the warming of the waters, but the Grimsby FPO says that in the 1980s the English fishing fleet was reduced by 50 per cent. It was reduced by another 75 per cent. in the 1990s, yet we still have a conservation crisis, so something more than the fishing effort is causing the problem.

The scientists inform us that the fish in the North sea stocks under survey—those that they are researching—are not now reaching the size and weight appropriate to their age. Why is that? The explanation that is most often put forward involves climatic change and global warming. The food source for the cod larvae—the phytoplankton—has decreased because the waters are warming. The fact that the waters are warming is causing the cod to migrate north, so there are more cod further north.

We are finding unusual species even in the North sea. There are increases in red mullet, bass and strangers. A swordfish was washed up on the Lincolnshire coast—the costa del caravan. I read in Fishing News this week that a barracuda has been caught off Cornwall—it probably has not yet joined the Liberal Democrats there—and that suggests that the waters are warming.

We need to examine the problem so that we understand what is happening, how much can be done through changes to fishing practice and how much is due to circumstances beyond our control. We cannot have a proper policy unless we understand the problem.

Although my hon. Friend the Member for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac), with whom I usually work closely, will object, I must mention the fact that the Grimsby FPO says that there is a seal population explosion and that

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something must be done about that. I know that she is an animal lover but, if fish catches are down and quotas are to be reduced, why should the seal population not be culled to its previous level? A growing seal population is targeting a smaller number of fish.

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes) rose

Mr. Mitchell: I knew this would happen, so I give way.

Shona McIsaac: I thank my hon. Friend and neighbour for giving way, but I was probably more incensed by the reference to the costa del caravan.

My hon. Friend mentioned the seal population explosion, but what scientific evidence does he have for his claim? What evidence from scientific research shows the impact on fishing stocks?

Mr. Mitchell: I must admit that the evidence is a priori and largely in my head, but it is reinforced by complaints made by fishermen. Seals are a problem and I am asking for more research to be carried out. It stands to reason that an increasing seal population must have an effect on the number of fish.

Other problems need to be considered in the round. For example, aggregates dredging must damage fishing. I noticed that the Dutch have banned aggregates dredging entirely and that they import their aggregates from us. We dredge them up in the North sea with consequent damage to the fishing grounds.

I have also written to my hon. Friend the Minister about power stations and industrial complexes. Fish are killed in the intake pipes of the power stations on Humberside. That is a problem and we need to understand all aspects of it, so that we can devise an overall policy that supports fish stocks.

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