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Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con):
Is my hon. Friend aware that the European constitution entrenches and centralises the CFP, making it even worse than it is now? When we reject the European constitution, as we certainly will, it will be the perfect opportunity to withdraw from the CFP. Renegotiation would put us in charge, because any replacement constitution can be agreed only with our agreement and in spite of our veto. Withdrawal from the CFP, and
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indeed any other powers with which we disagree, will follow naturally from the people's rejection of the European constitution.
Mr. Paterson: My right hon. Friend has made a good point. I pay tribute to his attempt to bring fisheries into the negotiation in the Convention last year. The Government missed a great opportunity to raise fishing at that time. He is, of course, right that this country will vote no to the constitution, because it wants to remain an independent sovereign nation. At that point, we will be in a strong bargaining position to debate our fishermen and our marine resource.
Mr. Steen: I pay tribute to the masterly way in which my hon. Friend has captured his brief, although his constituency is land-locked. If the CFP did not result in more dead fish being thrown overboard than are landedthe Minister doubts the figures, but he has not got a clue because he does not know how many fish are thrown overboardthe Conservative party would not be so adamant about withdrawing from the CFP. The fact that successive Labour Ministers have failed to adjust the CFP is the reason why the only way forward that we can see is withdrawal.
Mr. Salmond: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that national control provides a more focused fisheries policy because it confers ownership. However, a few moments ago he congratulated Professor Neil McCormick, who, in the Convention that negotiated the constitution, was the first and most doggedly persistent person to point out the dangers of exclusive competencies. Did I hear the hon. Gentleman right when he said that he is against the Hague preferences? Those are extremely helpful to Scottish fishermen, and I would not like the Conservative party to revert to its policy of regarding Scottish fishermen asI quote"expendable", as it did when it took us into the common fisheries policy.
Mr. Paterson: I repeat my tribute to my right hon. Friend the Member for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory), who mounted a brave campaign in the Convention on the issue. I have no idea what Scottish National party did; all I know is that it is tagging along behind us. This has been our policy under the past three leaders.
Mr. Heathcoat-Amory: For the illumination of the House, I can confirm that Professor McCormick tabled an amendment to take the common fisheries policy out of the constitution as an exclusive competence of the Union, but I tabled further amendments to remove it altogether and to repatriate these vital powers back to member states. Sadly, I was not supported by the Scottish National party, as I should have been.
I repeat the question that the hon. Gentleman was politely asked by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Andrew George): what will be the cost to the nation of withdrawal? If he cannot tell us now, when will the Conservatives be able to advise my constituents, and the nation, of that cost?
Mr. Paterson: I have not worked out the cost. I think that there will be gains for those countries that participate in our waters. As I said, at present they are being offered a declining proportion of a declining resource. I know that we can grow our biomass, grow the resource and grow our catches again if we follow modern, intelligent techniques, as employed in the Faroes, Iceland, and Norway, where I was on Monday and Tuesday this week. They have successful fisheries because they have national and local control. We would welcome foreign participation on the basis of historic rights; there will therefore be a gain for those fisheries. I refer again to the Falklands, where the Spanish are major playersthey are the largest investors and have the largest market in Vigo bay for Falklands squid. It has worked extremely well for them, but only since they established national control in 1986.
I am aware that we have only three hours, and I must push on. The optimism in those other fisheries is striking compared with the gloom that I encounter here. That is because the decisions of the CFP are basically political. In Reykjavik, I met the head of one of the largest banks in the world investing in worldwide fishing businesses. He has made it company policy not to invest in any European Union or Russian fishing business because of the interference and political risk of the arbitrary decisions made under those regimes.
"With the possible exception of pelagic stocks targeted by specific fisheries with relatively small by-catches of other species, the CFP toolbox of catch quota, capacity control and technical measures has not been effective in meeting the long-term strategic objectives of sustainable fisheries in EU waters without challenging the quality of the marine environment. The main problem relates to mixed fisheries that can continue fishing until the quota for the last species exploited has been exhausted as long as catches of others are discarded. Therefore, quota regulations effectively don't limit exploitation rates of demersal species and other regulatory measures seem required. However, the CFP reform process showed that the political will to change the management system is severely limited."
Is my hon. Friend aware that, in the towns of Brixham, Dartmouth and Salcombe, the seagull population has increased sixfold, causing havoc to the people who live there and all their equipment, which is covered in seagull mess? Their dustbins are also raided. Does he know that that has been caused solely by the number of fish thrown overboard dead under the common fisheries policy? The enormous resultant growth of the seagull population causes mayhem for my constituents.
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Mr. Paterson: That is a good point. I actually picked that up when I went to Brixham. The lesson from Brixham is the extraordinarily complex nature of the fishery. We must have seen 20 to 25 species in the fish market in the morning. That is why the quota system is unsuited to exploiting that resource. We should learn from other, more successful fisheries.
We should set a broad national framework on the basis that we believe that the seas around Britain belong to the people of Britain and need to be managed in the interests of all the people. Aristotle said that that which nobody owns, nobody cares for. We would like national Government to set a broad framework, as the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act does in the United States of America. However, detailed management should be devolved to local councils. Rather than abolishing existing fishery committees, as the Government threaten to do, we would like them to be built on, expanded and extended.
The Minister rightly paid tribute to the recreational sector. There are 1.5 million recreational anglers, with a turnover of £1 billion per annum. They should have the right to be consulted and have a real input in determining fishing management plans where there is significant recreational activity.
The regional advisory councils, which the Minister mentioned and the Commission proposed, will be only advisory. He confirmed that to me in parliamentary answers. We would prefer genuine local control, establishing local management plans with teeth.
We would scrap the rigid quota system and learn from the Faroes and New England, where days at sea limitation of effort has led to a striking increase in fish catches and biomass. In contrast to Britain, fishermen there trust and work closely with scientists, leading to better assessment of stocks. As my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Steen) said, the CFP does not take account of what is really happening. We have no idea of the amount of discards. By scrapping quotas, the incentive to discard and land black fish is eliminated.
In Norway and Iceland, discards are banned. We would go further and make landing of all commercial species mandatory, as happens in the Faroes. The CFP cannot succeed, because discards and black fish mean that there are no accurate data. Much of the existing data are out of date. Accurate data must be the basis for more rational management decisions. We would follow the lead of the Faroes, Iceland, the USA and Norway and establish substantial permanent and temporary closed areas. The closed areas of New England alone are as large as the state of Massachusetts.
We would insist on the use of selective gear. It is criminal that we allow haddock stocks that are at a 30-year high to go to waste in the North sea to protect cod. The centre for conservation sciences at Manomet in Massachusetts has achieved 81 per cent. separation of cod from haddock, and 90 per cent. separation of cod and haddock from flat fish. By raising the foot rope in the whiting fishery, it has achieved 100 per cent. separation of cod from flat fish. Only yesterday, I spoke to a senior executive at Marks and Spencer, which has a line of haddock. In trials, a cod by-catch of only 5 per cent. has been achieved by using intelligent, scientific gear.
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The Minister was recently humiliated by the Commission's refusal to listen to him about the slaughter of dolphins through pair trawling in the south-west. He was right to try to raise the matter but he was sent packing because we do not have national and local control. If we had such control, we would ban pair trawling out to 200 miles and we would work with Manomet and other excellent institutions such as the brilliant Sea Fish flume tank in Hull, where I spent a happy day on a trawling course, and devise a solution for separating dolphins from bass.
To monitor days at sea, we would make vessel monitoring systemsVMStracking mandatory on all vessels. As in the Falklands and Iceland, we would expect instant radio reporting of untoward events such as unexpected numbers of juveniles or by-catch. In Iceland, a fishery can be closed in a couple of hours by radio broadcasts if a vessel has rung in to announce an excess number of juveniles. Let us compare that kind of reaction with the way in which the common fisheries policy is run: we have one meeting a year, whereas the Falklands and Iceland are running their fisheries in real time, on real information.
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