Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Eighth Report





COM(02) 181

Commission Communication on the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy ("Roadmap").

Legal base:



Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Basis of consideration:

SEM of 11 September 2002

Previous Committee Report:

HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 1 (3 July 2002)

To be discussed in Council:

November 2002

Committee's assessment:

Politically important

Committee's decision:

For debate on the Floor of the House, together with the related fisheries documents listed in paragraph 2.1 below (decision reported on 3 July 2002)




    1. The current Community legislation governing the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) runs until the end of this year, and requires the Council to take a decision before then on the arrangements to apply from 1 January 2003. Consequently, the Commission has came forward — somewhat belatedly, at the end of May 2002 — with its proposals for reform, which comprise this Communication ("Roadmap"), accompanied by a number of other proposals dealing with the conservation and sustainable exploitation of the fisheries resources,[2] detailed rules on Community structural assistance in this sector,[3] emergency Community measures for scrapping fishing vessels,[4] the eradication of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing,[5] and the integration of environmental protection requirements into the CFP.[6]
    2. The contents of these various documents were summarised at some length in paragraphs 1-5 of our Report of 3 July 2002, in which we recommended that they should be the subject of an early debate on the Floor of the House. We also suggested that, since the proposals would have a significant impact on coastal areas throughout the UK, and hence affect the interests of many Members' constituents, the Government should in this case make possible a considerably longer debate than the 11/2 hours normally available for the consideration of European Union documents.
    3. In the meantime, we identified a number of points on which we said that it would be helpful if the Government could provide further clarification before the debate took place.
    4. Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 11 September 2002

    5. These points have now been addressed in a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum of 11 September from the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Commons) at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr Elliot Morley).
    6. The first point related to the Commission's view that, subject to limitations in areas such as the Shetland Box, all Member State fleets should have access to all Community waters outside 12 miles on a non-discriminatory basis. We asked how far this represented a change from the present position, and what for example would be the implications in terms of the activities of Spanish vessels in areas such as the North Sea. The Minister replies:
    7. "The Commission has proposed retention of the 6 and 12 mile limits which means that only UK fishermen would fish within 6 miles and only those with historic access would be able to fish in the six to twelve mile zone.

      "Spain, under the terms of their Treaty of Accession, gains access to the North Sea from the beginning of 2003. But the Commission propose that actual fishing opportunities will continue to be allocated in accordance with the principle of relative stability (i.e. in line with historic track record). The Spanish fleet has no track record of fishing in the North Sea and therefore no entitlement, under relative stability, to shares of quota of the managed fish stocks found there.

      "The Commission's proposal is that this access restriction, and the others outside the 12-mile zone, will be reviewed at the end of 2003 and a decision taken by the end of 2004 on whether to extend them or not on conservation grounds. The Government has no objection in principle to such measures having to be objectively justified on conservation grounds."

    8. Our second point arose from the Commission's suggestion that, although stocks should continue to be allocated between Member States according to the "relative stability" principle, there might need to be changes in the current allocation keys, for example to reflect the average share of catches over the preceding five or ten years. We asked whether the Government thought this was likely to happen, and what the implications would be for the UK's share of the various total allowable catches. The Minister says:
    9. "The Commission has indicated both in its 'Roadmap' and in discussions at Working Group level that it intends to maintain the principle of relative stability. However, they consider that the allocation keys should be designed to reflect changes in fishing activity over time. They have suggested using the average share of catches over the last five or ten years but have not stated definitively what the base reference period should be.

      "It is not possible to estimate the effect of new allocation keys without knowing which base reference period will be used. The UK's share of newly allocated quotas will not only have to reflect UK fishing patterns but also those of other Member States. The UK has not directly opposed a review of allocation keys but remains to be convinced of the wisdom of such a move."

    10. Thirdly, the Commission had suggested that the actions it was proposing to address the various structural imbalances would gradually create a climate which was more favourable to the elimination of what it described as "such barriers to normal economic activity as national catch quotas and the principle of relative stability". We commented that it was not clear whether the Commission envisaged that there should at some stage be a "free-for-all", or what alternatives to the present allocation system it had in mind, and we asked for the Government's views on this suggestion. The Minister points out:

"The Commission has undertaken to maintain the principle of relative stability for the time being as well as continuing with the system of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas. However, they recognise that the imbalance between the size and power of fishing fleets and fisheries resources means that normal market conditions cannot apply. The Commission wants to move in this direction in the long-term. They, therefore, intend to organise workshops in 2002 to look at systems for:

    • individual or collective fishing trading rights

    • payment for the right to fish

and will make proposals or recommendations in 2003 on the basis of the outcome of these debates.

"The Government welcomes the proposed continuation of the relative stability principle. However, it is willing to consider any proposals on the future operation of the CFP with an open mind. The underlying objective must be to evolve a system which effectively protects fish stocks and also safeguards the long-term survival of the fisheries sector."

    1. Finally, in its proposal for an emergency measure for scrapping vessels, the Commission had provided estimates of expenditure which suggested that the largest tonnage to be removed would be in the UK, equivalent to no less than 21% of the Community total. We noted that, in his Explanatory Memorandum of 27 June 2002, the Minister had said that the Commission was not seeking to impose cuts in fleet capacity, and that these figures should be taken as purely illustrative, but we nevertheless found it both strange and disturbing that the Commission should have made such an assumption, and we asked for any further information which the Minister might have on the significance of this. The Minister now says:
    2. "DEFRA understands from Commission officials that the calculation they made assumed a scale of cuts in fishing as recommended by fisheries scientists for the full range of stocks currently outside safe biological limits in EU waters. They estimated the impact of these cuts on the fleet of each Member State, using national fleet data available to the Commission.

      "On this basis, the estimated tonnage for a Member State with a relatively large fleet, such as the UK, will be higher than for a Member State with a small fleet fishing the same stocks, although the percentage cut may not be dissimilar. The estimated tonnage for a Member State with a high proportion of its fleet operating in Third Country waters, such as Spain, will be relatively low, since the calculation made by the Commission applies only to the part of the fleet fishing in EU waters. Lower cuts were also assumed for Mediterranean fleets."

    3. The Minister also says in his Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum that consultation exercises have been launched seeking the views of the industry and other interested parties, and that the comments received will be taken into account in UK preparations for the negotiations. He adds that, when the consultations have been completed, a Regulatory Impact Assessment will be drawn up, and that the financial implications will be analysed as detailed legislative proposals are put forward by the Commission.
    4. Conclusion

    5. We are grateful to the Minister for providing this further information, and for doing so in time for us to consider it before the debate, which we understand is to take place on the Floor of the House on 21 November. That said, it would seem that the position on such crucial subjects as the allocation of quotas and the detailed application of the relative stability principle will depend upon further Commission proposals, which we will want to examine carefully when they are available. In the meantime, we are drawing the Minister's comments to the attention of the House, and we also think that the House would find it helpful to refer to the recent report by the Rural Development Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the reform of the CFP.


2   (23512) -; HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 2 (3 July 2002). Back

3   (23514) -; HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 3 (3 July 2002). Back

4   (23515) -; HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 3 (3 July 2002). Back

5   (23510) -; HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 4 (3 July 2002). Back

6   (23513) -; HC 152-xxxv (2001-02), paragraph 5 (3 July 2002). Back

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