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Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim) (UUP): Has the Minister any plan to develop closer working

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relationships between scientists and fishermen, so that the scientific outcomes are more believable to fishermen?

Mr. Bradshaw: Not only do we have plans, but in the last financial year we spent £1 million of public money on collaborative projects between fishermen and scientists. We have put scientists on trawler boats for the first time at the request of fishermen from ports where for a long time they have said, "Oh, we know where the fish are. We can find plenty of them. There are plenty of cod out there. We'll show you if you put some scientists on our boats." We have also put fishermen on the scientific vessels. That exchange has contributed to a better atmosphere between scientists and the fishing industry than there was a year ago, and it is desperately important that we try to improve that in future. I should like a system whereby each region's fishing industry took responsibility for the management of its own industry, but in doing so would have to fund and accept the scientific research, as happens in some of the most successful fisheries in other parts of the world.

Mr. Carmichael: The Minister will be aware that all vessels over 18 m will need to be fitted with satellite tracking devices from 1 January. Does he accept that that represents a significant contribution to enforcement, particularly in relation to days-at-sea regulations? What assessment of that proposal's effectiveness has his Department made?

Mr. Bradshaw: Again, the hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: effective satellite monitoring will become increasingly important in future fisheries management. If he is patient, he will hear some good news a little later in my speech, which is about to come to an end.

Mr. Malcolm Savidge (Aberdeen, North) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for being generous in giving way once more. The hon. Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Leigh), Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, referred to 1 and 6 per cent. in any day's fishing, so the chances of boats being inspected in any given year are surely not that bad. I am not saying that we do not need to do much more, but we are carrying out proper supervision.

Mr. Bradshaw: We could do better, but we are neither the worst nor the best on enforcement.

Mr. Steen: The Minister will be aware that one of the major problems in south Devon and the rest of the west country is the number of dolphins caught by way of by-catch. Scottish and French boats are to blame. Does that concern him? What will he do about it? It is most dreadful to see hundreds, if not thousands, of those dolphins washed up on the beaches of the west country.

Mr. Bradshaw: The hon. Gentleman raises the spectre of the old alliance. He is right to say that cetacean by-catch is a problem, but it is not restricted exclusively to pair trawling for bass off the south-west coast; it happens in all fisheries, unfortunately. At the most, only two or three pairs of Scottish boats are involved, compared with about 30 from the French side. While we

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take the problem extremely seriously and have been funding some very successful research involving the use of a separator grid in the nets, which almost reduced to zero the number of dolphins caught in that way, the French have so far not shown the same sense of urgency. There is not even the same awareness of it in France, but we are working very hard on that. My predecessor wrote to the French Fisheries Minister, and we are giving the evidence of our successful trials to the Commission and the French. We very much hope to make progress on that sad phenomenon.

I expect to set out our plans to enhance monitoring and control early in the new year, taking account of any additional commitments that arise from the decisions to be taken at next week's Council. The plans will involve a greater emphasis on weighing and inspecting fish in port, changes to our designated port arrangements, the installation of tamper-proof satellite position-reporting terminals on all vessels over 15 m and the registration of the sellers and buyers of first-sale fish. I can also advise the House that my Department will meet the full cost of fitting satellite terminals to all vessels for which it is the licensing authority.

I want to end on a more strategic note. The reason why we contemplated the measures now under discussion, with the pain that they have unquestionably brought, is to ensure a sustainable future for our fishing industry. It would be good for the decisions that we take to be reached within the framework of a long-term strategy aimed at that sustainable future. That was exactly why the Prime Minister, after last December's Council of Ministers, asked his strategy unit to set up a fisheries project to identify the options for ensuring a long-term sustainable future for the industry. The strategy unit has been doing an extremely thorough job of examining the issues and discussing ideas with all interested parties. Its report will be an important document, and we look forward to receiving it early in the new year.

5.15 pm

Mr. John Whittingdale (Maldon and East Chelmsford): This is the first time I have spoken in this debate, but the issues under discussion are depressingly familiar. Once again, they revolve around a Fisheries Council at which the agenda will consist of further reductions in total allowable catches, leading to further cuts in quotas, squeezing still further an industry that is already in crisis. For fishermen, the outlook is one of unremitting gloom as each year they struggle harder to survive while yet more of their number give up the fight and leave the industry for good.

Fishing is not just another industry—it is one of the first ever pursued by the residents of these islands and it is also one of the most dangerous. The chief inspector of the marine accident investigation branch said in his annual report last year:

Last year, 18 fishing vessels were reported lost, and I would like to pay tribute to the eight crew members who lost their lives.

No one understands better than fishermen the need to conserve fish stocks. If there was evidence that the common fisheries policy was succeeding in building

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back up depleted stocks, they would be much more willing to support it. The CFP, however, has been a miserable failure. Each year, the estimates of stocks are reduced once again and the inevitable prescription is another cut in TACs.

Angus Robertson (Moray) (SNP): The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right to identify the common fisheries policy as being an unmitigated disaster. Will he take the opportunity to apologise on behalf of the Conservative party for signing the UK up to it in the first place?

Mr. Whittingdale: I suspect that all Governments need to take some of the blame, and I would point at the record of the previous Labour Government, who extended the limits to 200 miles and gave access to EU ships into all those British waters. I want to concentrate on the future, however, and on what the next Conservative Government will do.

It takes three years for a cod to mature, so fishermen point out rightly that if the policy were working, after three years, TACs should start improving. The revision, however, is always downward, and the pressure on the industry increases relentlessly.

Mrs. Humble: Will the hon. Gentleman recognise and acknowledge that in fact the Irish sea cod recovery programme is working, and it is doing so because of the commitment of Irish sea fishermen, including my constituents in Fleetwood? The cod stocks are going up, and this year the Commission is suggesting a small increase. The problem for Fleetwood fishermen is the associated species. The cod recovery programme, however, is paying dividends, and we are seeing mature cod—it is working.

Mr. Whittingdale: It is good to hear that in one small part one species is showing some signs of recovery. If the hon. Lady concludes from that that the common fisheries policy is a success, however, I suspect that her fishermen would not agree.

Mr. Calum MacDonald (Western Isles) (Lab): Actually, stocks of herring have increased over the past 20 years, stocks of mackerel have increased over the past 20 years, and stocks of shellfish are doing better than they have done over the past 20 years. How does that square with the hon. Gentleman's simplistic condemnation of the common fisheries policy?

Mr. Whittingdale: If Labour Members believe that the common fisheries policy has been such a wonderful success, why is it that every year more and more of our fishermen go out of business and we experience continuing reductions in quotas? Why is it that the Minister must again go to the Fisheries Council to argue against yet another savage cut in quotas that will lead to more of our fishermen losing their livelihoods? It is fiction to believe that the policy has been a success. It is hardly any wonder that fishermen conclude that the CFP has little to do with conserving fish stocks and rather more to do with accommodating the vast Spanish fishing fleet in our waters.

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Before the advent of the common fisheries policy, the British fishing industry was a model of sustainability. Thirty years on, throughout which the CFP has been in operation supposedly to conserve stocks, large areas of the most fertile and productive fishing grounds in the world are threatened with closure.

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