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Mr. Carmichael: You instructed him?

Mr. Paterson: I instructed him because what he was doing was against the regulations. We took out the first haul at about 5.30 am. The 80 mm mesh was extremely full. It showed thousands and thousands of tiny juvenile plaice peeping through the mesh. Probably 90 per cent. had to be discarded. In contrast, the 110 mm mesh was about two thirds full and contained 80 per cent. saleable
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adult fish. This was in the night, when the tides were adverse, and there was still that catch and by-catch. We repeated the exercise, and at 9.15 am the result was even worse.

It is hard to understand how sane human beings can insist that such a system is enforced when it clearly causes so much damage. The appalling scandal of discards is a direct result of the system whereby the common fisheries policy imposes its quota system. The CFP is a biological, environmental, economic and social disaster. It is our clearly stated policy to leave the CFP and establish national and local control.

Mr. Michael Jabez Foster (Hastings and Rye) (Lab): That is indeed what the hon. Gentleman told the fishermen of Hastings. What he did not tell them is how he would do that. Would he negotiate with anyone to leave the CFP, and if so, with whom—I know of no one—or would he just break the treaty?

Mr. Paterson: That is a helpful intervention, as it leads on to a letter that my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard), the hon. Gentleman's near neighbour, wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Maldon and East Chelmsford (Mr. Whittingdale). My right hon. and learned Friend wrote on 9 June:

Mr. Blizzard: What would the hon. Gentleman do to solve the problem of discards? Even if we withdrew from the CFP, what would his solution be to that problem?

Mr. Steen: Days at sea.

Mr. Paterson: If the hon. Gentleman will give me a little more time, I shall come to that issue. The answer, as my hon. Friend just said, is days at sea. The Minister is wrong to say that no fishery has found a solution to the problem. The Faroes have found a solution, as has New England. If one goes for days at sea, one sees that much of the discard problem has been eliminated.

Mr. Bradshaw: On the Conservative policy of withdrawal from the CFP, the hon. Gentleman has explained that, if a future Conservative Government acting alone failed to persuade every single other member of the European Union to allow them to leave the CFP but stay in the EU, his party would introduce a Bill in Parliament. What would the Bill say, and how would the Conservatives achieve a treaty breach—as he knows, such a breach has never happened before—and still expect the UK to stay in the EU?

Mr. Paterson: The Minister and I had an interesting debate on this issue in the regional press. It is very simple: membership of the CFP is not a criterion for membership of the European Union. On a global issue, with the fall in the dollar, the status of the euro is
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fundamental, and yet two of the largest contributors to the euro, France and Germany, have unilaterally broken their obligations in respect of it. He mentioned the new commissioner, Mr. Borg, who comes from Malta. The CFP does not apply to the Mediterranean countries in the same way as to the UK. There are also the land-locked countries, including famous buccaneering, swashbuckling countries such as Slovakia, Hungary, Luxembourg and Austria, which are also active of members the European Union but not of the CFP.

Lawrie Quinn (Scarborough and Whitby) (Lab): I thank the hon. Gentleman for the courtesy of advising me that he was going to visit Scarborough and Whitby. I hope that he enjoyed his fish and chips in the restaurant of the vice-chairman of the Tory party in Scarborough. Has he embarked on any discussions with the land-locked or Mediterranean nations that he has just listed about applying the Conservative party's policy should it win the next general election?

Mr. Paterson: I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's comments about my visit to his constituency. It was a good visit and I thoroughly enjoyed it. We have a very fine candidate in Mr. Robert Goodwill, as the hon. Gentleman will find out when the election comes, and the fish and chips were indeed excellent.

The answer to the hon. Gentleman's question is no; I have concentrated my efforts on going to fishing countries, as I am about to explain. I have been to places such as the Faroes, Iceland, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and New England, where successful fisheries are run because there is national and local control.

David Burnside: On national interest, is the hon. Gentleman aware that there is a system called the Hague preference whereby Northern Ireland fishermen have their quotas transferred to our neighbours in the Irish Republic, which has a Government who are financing modernisation of their fishing fleet and an increase in its size, while we in the United Kingdom are decommissioning our fleet?

Mr. Paterson: That is a very good point. Subsidies are one of the most damnable and dangerous elements in fishing, because they break the commercial rules. The nightmare that arose in Newfoundland was caused mainly by subsidised activity, first in the Soviet Union and then in Canada itself. I entirely endorse the hon. Gentleman's comments: subsidised fishing capacity is very damaging, and we would like to see it dramatically reduced. We would not tolerate any subsidised activity if we had national and local control.

Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): With regard to the Conservatives' proposal to negotiate withdrawal from the CFP—I am sure that all of us, including the hon. Gentleman, agree that it is extremely unlikely and probably impossible that they could negotiate a way out—and their fallback position of committing a breach of the treaty, what estimate has he made of the cost to the UK taxpayer? Without doubt, the consequences of such a withdrawal would be significant. Fines would be
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imposed by the European Court of Justice, and there would be litigation from other member states and possibly boycotts and other tariffs. What estimate has he made of the cost to the UK taxpayer of his pursuing that policy?

Mr. Paterson: I refute the hon. Gentleman's premise—this is not a nil sum game. If he examines the history of the Falklands, general mayhem occurred before 1986. There was a lot of fishing activity, stocks were not controlled and the Spanish were among the worst culprits. The Spanish were brought under control once national control was established in the Falklands. They are now the most constructive participant in the fisheries: they are the largest investors and Vigo bay is the largest market for Falklands squid.

Our partners will not see our action as totally negative, because they are currently being offered a bleak future. As the Minister has explained, stocks are declining, and our partners will be offered a share in a declining resource. If they work with us, however, and we copy successful methods, which I have seen with my own eyes in the Faroes, Iceland, Nova Scotia and New England, the resource will expand and they can participate.

Mr. Bradshaw: A moment or two ago, the hon. Gentleman said that some existing members of the European Union are not members of the CFP and that the CFP does not apply to some EU members. Will he clarify those comments?

Mr. Paterson: Yes; the full rules of the CFP do not apply to the Mediterranean states and the land-locked states. The Minister keeps trying to make the point that it is essential to be part of the CFP to be part of the European Union, but that is not the case. The EU is in a constant state of flux and the issue is a matter of political will. Our party has a firm, clearly stated view that the CFP cannot be reformed. The CFP has done grotesque damage to our marine communities and marine environment. We want to establish national and local control to 200 miles or the median line. I cannot put it more clearly than that.

Mr. Bradshaw: I am grateful for the helpful clarification that the CFP applies to all member states. Management regimes within the CFP can vary according to regional conditions. For example, different regimes apply in the North sea, the Baltic and the Mediterranean.

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