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Mr. Paterson: There is another point, which the hon. Gentleman has missed. The policy is self-defeating in some ways. The lesson with the Faroes is that leaving an enormous haddock stock means that haddock are eating young cod. He made a similar point when he said that prawns were not being eaten.

Mr. Salmond: I am aware of that argument. The Faroes would go for about a third of biomass as a quota. Whether we go for a third or somewhat less—a third would be 160,000 or 170,000 tonnes or so, as opposed to the 66,000 tonne level—there is leeway, which should be accompanied by a huge marketing policy. A fish processor in my constituency said that new filleting machinery technology would enable him to fulfil a contract in mid-Europe, Germany and eastern Europe involving 10,000 tonnes of haddock. Of course, he must have access to the stock. That would be fundamental in giving us a larger stock and catch, and a sustainable price, although a bit of certainty is required that such a contract can be fulfilled in the medium term. Will the Minister think about the opportunity in respect of haddock as he goes into the talks?
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I asked the Minister a question about monkfish, to which he was going to reply. Now the Commission, or at least its scientists, have admitted that their monkfish data are nonsensical. We know that monkfish are in plentiful supply and that they are a high-value stock. We are also approaching Christmas, and yet the hard-pressed boats have not been able to access that stock in the past week, nor will they be able to do so in coming weeks. It is tragic in such a fishery that North sea boats will now be diverted to other species, as they desperately try to stay in business. Yet we know that the monkfish are in substantially good condition. All the research supports that view, but the quotas have been allocated at a precautionary level, which means that they have no scientific basis. I know that the Minister is sympathetic to that argument, so will he now press to get back to the 1999 reference period levels and have a sensible allocation of effort on monkfish to allow that fishing opportunity to boats when so many other opportunities will not be available?

I hope that in this contribution, I have managed to combine my politics, which the Minister knows, with my anxiety to see fishing treated differently. My approach is pragmatic, because I want to see improvements and gains. I have made it clear where I would like fisheries policy to go. I do not think that the Tories will win the next election, but in 2007 we will have a fishing-friendly Government in Scotland, led by the Scottish National party. In the meantime, I want to do as much as possible to protect this vital industry, which so many hon. Members love dearly and want to see thrive. It should get the sort of commitment from all politicians to which it has not been accustomed, but to which it is certainly entitled.

5.10 pm

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney) (Lab): I want to say a few words about long-lining, which is an environmentally friendly and sustainable fishing method. I do not believe that long-lining is responsible for the devastation of fish stocks. When my hon. Friend the Minister goes into bat for us in Brussels, whatever further restrictions may be necessary on species such as cod, will he ensure that long-liners are excluded from them, because I cannot see the harm that they do to fish stocks? Long-lining is a labour-intensive form of fishing and supports more jobs per fish caught than many other methods.

The main reason why I wanted to catch your eye this evening, Mr. Deputy Speaker, is to follow through on a point that I made at Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions only a couple of weeks ago. The problem concerns pay levels at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science. CEFAS employs the scientists on whom we rely in order to hold today's debate. The Minister has kindly undertaken to look into the matter, and so that he can do so with an understanding of the scientists' point of view, I want to apprise him and the House of the current situation at CEFAS, which is highly unsatisfactory.

CEFAS is an Executive agency of DEFRA. Its headquarters is in Lowestoft, the largest of its three sites, and it has two other sites at Weymouth and Burnham—my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Jim Knight) supports my remarks. CEFAS employs
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530 people, about 300 of whom are based at Lowestoft. Although the scientists do more than concentrate on fishing, we rely on them for accurate information on fish stocks, various species, factors affecting breeding, fish health and the whole marine environment. Every year in this debate, someone says, "Our policies must be based on sound science." Without those scientists, we could not formulate a fisheries policy. Without the help and advice of our scientists, my hon. Friend would, in effect, go into bat in the Fisheries Council wearing a blindfold. If we respect what those people say about fish stocks, we should respect what they say about pay, which is a problem. Until a few years ago, all the scientists worked for the old Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and although CEFAS is an agency, its staff still work closely in partnership with DEFRA. If hon. Members table a question, and in particular a detailed question, on fisheries, it will be sent to CEFAS—probably to Lowestoft in my constituency—for the answer. CEFAS is part of the machinery of Government. It is not privatised and is not a contractor that is paid special rates for specific jobs. CEFAS staff receive different levels of pay from core DEFRA staff. For example, the difference between the minimum points on the pay scales is between £2,750 and £7,000 a year. At the maximum end of the scale, the difference is typically about £3,000 a year.

Worse still, although core DEFRA staff can progress through those scales to the maximum of the pay band over a period of, say, eight to 15 years, there is no progression system for CEFAS staff apart from leaving the entry range after one or two years. Those scientists tread water with no hope of reaching the maximum. The pay at CEFAS is quite low. Graduates start on £15,000, while those on exactly the same grade in core DEFRA start on £21,451. Nothing highlights the problem more than that.

When I took this matter up before, I received a reply from the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality, who said in a letter dated 27 October that the agency arrangements

and give them flexibility in their pay arrangements to align them appropriately to the services that they exist to provide.

It is said that the agency has the opportunity to go out and win extra non-Government work in the private sector to enhance its income. CEFAS knows that, and does so, but the fact remains that 82 per cent. of its income still comes from DEFRA. If one includes the other Departments that it works for, 91 per cent. of its income comes from the Government.

CEFAS is not paid in any competitive, contractual way—it simply gets a block payment from DEFRA each year to do whatever DEFRA wants. In effect, CEFAS is part of DEFRA and has to respond as part of the civil service, so if something needs doing, it has to do it—it expects and accepts that. It does not have the freedom to pay the rates that it would like. If, in a good year, it earns more income from other sources, it is not free to distribute that in a pay rise because there is a Treasury cap that means that it can do so only if the Treasury agrees to it—rather a hard thing to get it to do.
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It cannot even plough those extra earnings back into the business in any form because any surplus has to be paid back to DEFRA.

CEFAS is in a trap, and it is not surprising that its staff are unhappy. That is showing up in retention problems. About 70 staff have left in each of the past four years. There is a move towards a transient work force rather than the stable community of committed scientists that we need to do the job. Management recognise that they have a problem and currently pay what they call recruitment and retention allowance to 33 people, amounting to £67,000 a year in total. Of course, that creates disparities within the organisation and is not a particularly transparent method of solving the problem. That creates tensions and ill feeling, which are not good for team building.

Staff surveys at CEFAS have shown that pay is the main problem. I am told that a review just carried out by a Mr. Ken Crossland found that pay is the most significant source of staff discontent and that the laboratory is finding recruitment and retention a growing problem. Last September, the staff held a ballot on whether to accept a pay offer. It was rejected by 91 per cent. of members of Prospect and 97 per cent. of members of the Public and Commercial Services Union. Ballots on strike action or action short of a strike came out two to one in favour of strike action. One union came out eight to one in favour of action short of striking, with the other union four to one in favour of such action. These are moderate scientists with no history of militancy; the fact that they are voting for strike action and action short of striking shows how they feel.

I mentioned that a review of the DEFRA agencies is taking place. Will my hon. Friend the Minister use that to examine the problem of these scientists' pay and try to sort it out? CEFAS deals with intellectual property, and its success depends on the quality of people's minds. I put it to the House that troubled, unhappy minds do not make for a successful organisation.

5.19 pm

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