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Mr. Goodwill: Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the two Shetland-based fishermen who pleaded guilty to landing illegally 7,600 tonnes of fish in Denmark without declaring it to fisheries officials, fixing log sheets and making £3.4 million in the process could be described as being involved in black fish?

Mr. Carmichael: I have no difficulty in saying that that would generally come under the term of black fish landings. The hon. Gentleman refers to the Altaire case, which I have followed closely for obvious reasons as both gentlemen in question are my constituents.

In the Altaire case, the criminal justice system and the confiscation procedures have been rigorous and have been followed. If that case is cast up to the Minister when he pleads our case in Brussels, he can point to our criminal justice system and confiscation procedures and say, "We have been rigorous. We have made our policing work." If there is an absence of similar cases in other jurisdictions within the United Kingdom, that should not be taken as evidence of their not having a problem; rather, it should be evidence of the fact that
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they are less rigorous in policing fisheries. I asked the Minister about that not long ago in Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs questions, and he has spoken about it. I hope that the case in my constituency and that in the constituency of the hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby will be taken as evidence of the fact that we are rigorous in our policing and that such cases are not necessarily indicative of any wider problem.

It has long been my view that we are among the most enthusiastic of enforcers of fisheries law. I remember discussing that with the hon. Gentleman's predecessor, who took the same view. Having worked in the criminal courts as a solicitor and having acted in many fish landing cases, I have a great deal of sympathy for many of the skippers who get caught out. Very often, it is the result of mere sloppiness. On occasions, it is because the nature and complexity of the fisheries regulations with which skippers are expected to comply is such that it would be barely safe to set to sea without first completing an LLB; people need to be qualified lawyers before they can be expected to find their way around the full range and complexity of the regulations. However, I did not come across many solicitors queuing up to go to sea during my time as a practising solicitor—indeed, I have not come across many since I came into the House. That might be why cases continue to arise.

The Minister finished his speech more abruptly than I thought he would. I had hoped that he would come on to say a few more things about the upcoming Council. Again, I echo the comments of other hon. Members about the fishing year. I commend Commissioner Borg for being prepared to say that he will consider it. Along with that—this thought came to my mind as I listened to the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell)—we should revisit the question of multi-annual quotas. No matter what point in the year we pick to set the quota for the next year, it still leaves the industry able only to plan one year ahead. I know of no other industry that would allow its businesses to organise things in that way. There has to be a longer-term vision for the industry, especially when—hopefully—stocks across the border are more stable. That will allow for proper financial planning, which, frankly, is next to impossible as things stand.

I should also pay tribute to Commissioner Borg for his performance as commissioner, which is infinitely to be preferred to that of his predecessor. I was privileged to lead a delegation of fishermen from Shetland and Orkney to meet him in April—I suspect that I would not have got within a country mile of his predecessor—and he was open with them, he engaged with them, he listened, and he was sympathetic. That is a significant advance. He has undertaken to visit Shetland, or the northern isles, in the course of next year, and I hope to see him. I know that he will be most welcome. I am delighted that Ross Finnie will be visiting Shetland next week to take the soundings of the industry. I pay tribute to the way in which Mr. Finnie, my colleague, has taken the time and trouble to engage with, to listen to and to advance the case of Scotland's fishermen.

The proposal to which we have not given sufficient attention is that of days at sea. As I understand it, the proposal of the Commission, in the round, is a reduction
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from 108 days to 104. That in itself will be highly problematic for the white fish fleet in my constituency. The situation is even worse than it might at first have appeared. I am told that in the past year, fishermen in my constituency on white fish boats were able to take advantage of an extra 12 days that was made available to them. That was one day a month, as a result of the elective measures on administrative penalties. We still have the administrative penalties as part of the regime, but there is no question about the days that go with them.

When the Minister replies, will he tell me that he will give some priority to ensuring that the carrot-and-stick approach is still on offer and that he will not return home from Brussels without the extra 12 days? If he fails to do so, the white fish industry in my constituency will be left 16 days a year down from an already exceptionally low base. That threatens the viability of the more marginal boats in my constituency.

May I strengthen the resolve of the Minister on the haddock quota? It is proposed that there should be a 13 per cent. cut, which will cause severe hardship. I accept that some progress has already been made, but a 13 per cent. cut—an improved position though it may be—will cause exceptional difficulty. There are the difficulties of science, and the haddock supply highlights that better than almost anything else. Last year, on the basis of the data available to ICES, the spawning stock biomass for haddock was calculated at about 400,000 tonnes. At the EU-Norway talks earlier in the year, that same data was remodelled to give a spawning stock biomass of 280,000 tonnes. That shows the exceptional difficulties that one experiences when assessing the credibility of the science that is available on fisheries stocks. When the remodelled figures were produced, one could hear in Shetland the glee from Norway. There was no doubt that Norway's hand would be significantly strengthened in the EU-Norway negotiations.

My final substantive topic is industrial fishing. Like every other Member, I welcomed enthusiastically the closure of the industrial fishery this year. I note with exceptional pleasure the recommendation that there should be a zero total allowable catch for sand eel and pout. There is no doubt in my mind that industrial fishing of the sort that we have seen for so long is the antithesis of sustainable fishery. If evidence is needed of that, the Minister need not just have regard to fish stocks, where there has been an impact. Along the cliffs of Shetland and Orkney, the sea bird population has been decimated. I recall speaking to constituents on Foula earlier this year, who were broken-hearted given the way in which the breeding stock of the various seabirds has disappeared in recent years. Like fish stocks, breeding stocks for birds, once lost, are difficult to restore.

Hon. Members have suggested that, as president, the UK is in danger of playing too fairly. There has been talk of cricket—a game about which I know little and care less. I acknowledge that there is a balance to be struck when we assume the presidency, but we should not allow our role and fairness as president to damage our own industry and national interests. Instead of taking cricket as his model, may I commend to the Minister a splendid game that is played every year in my
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constituency on Christmas day and new year's day called the Ba'? [Interruption.] No, it is the Ba', and it is played in Kirkwall in Orkney.

Three hundred grown men—perhaps more—play a traditional ball game in which they take a ball from the market cross in the centre of Kirkwall either up the town or down the town, where the game ends in the harbour. It lasts for hours. When the Ba' went up on new year's day, it was almost dark. It is a tremendously spirited game that is keenly contested. Less generous observers have described it as a rolling breach of the peace. May I suggest to the Minister that, if he wants to train his officials, he could send them to take part in this year's Ba', rather than sending them to play cricket? They would be most welcome—I have no doubt that the fishermen in my constituency who play in the Ba' every year would be most interested and would give them the closest possible attention in the middle of the scrum.

4.7 pm

Mr. Lindsay Hoyle (Chorley) (Lab): This is an important debate. In case people are wondering, I do not represent a fishing port, but my constituency is dependent on good-quality fishing stocks. We have good fish and chip shops in Chorley and good restaurants that serve quality fish. We also have good supermarkets, as well as Chorley market, where the stalls specialise in wet fish. My constituency therefore has a great history of selling quality fish. We must ensure that there are fishing stocks around the UK and successful fishing ports, so that fishermen can go out and secure the catches that my constituents need.

I have tabled early-day motions 945 and 1108, which express concern about illegal fishing and other fishing practices. The cost of illegal fishing is about £680 million. Spanish fishing vessels buy a flag of convenience from a landlocked country—other countries are involved, but Spain is one of the worst offenders—and use it to get round the rules on trawling, which is not acceptable. The country of origin does not take action against such usage, so the problem must be dealt with quickly, as it is a major burden for our fishermen. They are playing cricket—a great game—but while they play by the rules, other countries, especially Spain, abuse them. We must stop that. We expect the Minister to take action against illegal fishing and abolish flags of convenience.

Another problem is Spanish vessels putting out long lines and capturing sharks off the coast of Ireland, Scotland and Norway. That is a tragedy and is having a great effect on the sharks that used to live there quite happily. Spanish vessels put out a long line and, to get best value from it, the line can be out for weeks. Lines have even been known to be out for months. Not only does that devastate the shark stock in the area, but because the vessels do not come round often enough, half the catch is allowed to rot on the line and is eventually discarded. We must deal with that problem too.

I hope the Minister will take action. We know that the fishing vessels in question are Spanish. We know that marine experts in the United Kingdom are concerned, as are their Norwegian and Irish counterparts. We have heard a great deal today and we expect a great deal. Progress can be achieved. I know the Minister takes on
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board his responsibilities. When we go forward, I want to know that we will have a strong voice, a positive voice and a supportive voice for the fishing industry around the UK. We need to take action against other nations that are operating illegally.

I want the Minister to ensure that the good people of Chorley can expect Chorley market to keep selling a variety of quality fish that has been landed legally by fishermen around the UK, and to ensure that we have long-term fish stocks. That is what it is about—ensuring that we have a fishing industry for the long term. Let us not let other people plunder our stocks. Let us nurture them, and let us look after the fishing industry that has served us well for hundreds of years. Let us not lose that, and let us ensure that quality fish continues to come to Chorley.

4.12 pm

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