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Mr. Bradshaw: If the hon. Gentleman had been courteous enough to be present at the beginning of the debate and had heard the opening speeches, he would have learned that the value of landings and the total value of our fishing industry have risen in the last two years.
Mr. Hayes: I was present for the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson), and I shall refer to it shortly. The Minister was clearly not as observant as he thought. Surely, though, he is not suggesting that the fishing industry is in better shape than it was 20 years ago. Surely he is not making that case.
Mr. Hayes: It is hardly an example of discourtesy to point out that the fishing industry has declinedin my judgment, tragically and profoundlyover the past 20 years. As I said earlier in an intervention, I do not entirely blame the Minister or his predecessors. I repeat that, too often, they have gone naked into the conference chamber because they have not had the support of the Government as a whole for the prioritisation of the fishing industry. I do not think that the Minister should be so defensive. He is saddled with a job in which he cannot achieve the objectives that he may well wish to achieve because of the prevailing policy, the CFP, and the stance of his party. As his hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) observed, the fishing industry has never been a priority for the leading members of their party.
The industry's decline has left it, in certain respects, beyond the point of regeneration. Some parts of it have declined to a point at which they will never be able to regain the momentum and scale that they once enjoyed. That would be bad enough but, as I have said, we have also seen an ecological disaster. The latest information
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that we have, which has been mentioned already, is that cod stocks in the North sea, the Irish sea and west of Scotland are set to remain well below minimum recommended levels, and the advice is therefore zero catch. We are told that whiting stocks in the Irish sea are also thought to be in poor condition, and the advice is that there should be the lowest possible catch until the stocks have a chance to recover. It is true that haddock stocks are in rather better shape, as the Minister knows, but there is the difficulty of mixed fisheries, to which the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan referred.
No one would deny that the ecology of the North sea and the other seas around our coast have been severely damaged by the CFP, which for the great bulk of its life allowed industrial fishing, a subject that has been raised relentlessly in the Houseit is raised every year when we have this debate. I am pleased that the end of industrial fishing seems to be in sightit has finished temporarily and, we hope, for goodbut it may be too late. Some species may have gone beyond the point of recovery. The effects of industrial fishing may have been so profound as permanently to change the ecology of the seas that have been fished so ruthlessly.
I know that there are other factors. Climate change, warmer waters and the movement of fish stocks have to be taken into consideration, but it is undeniable that the scandal of industrial fishing, which was allowed to continue within the framework of the CFP, has done untold damage and that the Minister and previous Ministers have been warned about that by hon. Members on both sides of the House, year on year.
The criticism above all others that I have of the CFP is that it has been crude in the way it has balanced fish stocks and fish take. The principal instruments of control have been restrictions on effort and discards. My hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire, to whose remarks I was listening attentively, suggested that there were better ways of dealing with the important balance between what we take from the sea and the maintenance of adequate and healthy stocks. He talked about the technical advances that have taken place and that can be applied, and about the need for effective science. We have heard again from the Minister that there is co-operation between the industry and the scientists and that needs to be built on. I would point to the virtues of closed areas, long recommended by some hon. Members. They were examined as long ago as 1998 when I was on the Select Committee on Agriculture, and advocated by me when I was shadow Fisheries Minister, prior to my hon. Friend's tenure. However, they were never pursued with the vigour that they should have been under the CFP. There are many ways in which the balance between fish take and fish stocks can be achieved. We have not got that formula right.
It appears that the best way of achieving that is by having more local control of fishing. I do not think that this has to be a dogmatic issue. We do not have to be myopic in our view of Europe to take that line. I think that most good Europeans now take the view that we need to deconstruct the CFP and examine other ways of dealing with the issue. On the grounds of practical considerations and evidence, we now need to think afresh and more laterally. We need to look at the experiences of countries that have had successful and thriving fishing industries, including the Faroe Islands,
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Iceland and Norway, and to learn from what they have got right. Our industry, restricted as it has been by the CFP, has, sadly, got it wrong. That is not the fault of the fishing industry or fishermen. It has happened because of what they have been obliged to do, often against their instinct and knowledge. There is nothing that fishermen like less than discarding healthy fish. It is against all that is in their bones and breeding. A more lateral and imaginative approach, which my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire articulated so well, is therefore desirable.
I pay tribute to my hon. Friend. Whatever the Minister might think, I was an extremely good shadow Fisheries Minister, but my hon. Friend is better. He is a better shadow Minister than me on this brief. As has already been said, he has toured the country
Mr. Hayes: Indeed, the Minister is right. My hon. Friend's travels have not been limited to the United Kingdom. He has toured the world in his efforts to learn about fishing, listen to those in the industry and help to articulate their concerns and hopes. He has devised a strong Conservative policy based on that knowledge. I therefore pay tribute to his work, which was reflected in his powerful contribution to today's debate.
I do not wish to detain hon. Members longer than necessary. The arguments have been well rehearsed and made. We could discuss the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for North Shropshire and others raised about, for example, investment in the industry. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan was right to compare the modernity of the Spanish fleet with that of ours. However, those points have already been made.
We look to a new sort of politics and a new era. The political climate is changing. We may be on the cusp of something exciting with the advent of my hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr. Cameron) as leader of the Conservative party. In that spirit, we need to be bolder about our vision for the future of fishing and how we can deconstruct the CFP. We need to be more creative and imaginative about reversing the decline over which successive Ministers have presided. I hope that the Minister will accept that suggestion, which is made with the best possible will, and take it seriously as he goes to the Council. I hope that he tells the representatives of the other countries there that enough is enough. We cannot gain by pretending that the current system will work. We must be honest enough to accept that we must start again and return fishing to local and national control.
Mr. Mike Weir (Angus) (SNP): I am pleased to make a short contribution to this important debate. My constituency has a long history of fishing through the fishing port of Arbroath and the small communities of Auchmithie, Lunan, Usan, Ferryden up to Montrose and across the border into Aberdeenshire.The history of Angus's association with fishing is reflected in the fact that we have two of the oldest lifeboat stations in the country. As the Minister rightly said at the beginning of the debate, fishing is dangerous and many people have lost their lives in the fishing industry.
In Angus, the traditional industry concentrated on white fish, especially haddock, but was also involved with fishing for crabs and in fixed salmon netting,
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especially at the mouth of the River Southesk. Much of that industry has now disappeared. A fishing industry remains, especially in the port of Arbroath, with a smaller industry in Montrose, but the rest of it has largely vanished over the years.
However, my area continues to have a strong fish processing industry, which is building up after many years in the doldrums. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) visited my constituency shortly after the general election to open an extension to the fish factory of R. R. Spink and Sons, one of the manufacturers of the world-famous Arbroath smokie. For many years, the smokie was effectively not made because there was not enough haddock to do so. That has changed in recent years and the industry is expanding and finding new markets. If hon. Members go to Sainsbury's in Victoria, they will find some R. R. Spink products on its shelves. I thoroughly recommend that they do that and enjoy an Arbroath smokie for their tea.
The hon. Member for Scarborough and Whitby (Mr. Goodwill) said that the Czech Republic, Poland and other eastern European nations have no interest in fisheries. Interestingly, in recent years many Czechs, Poles, Slovaks and other eastern Europeans have come to work in fish processing factories in Arbroath, Aberdeen and many other areas. They are making a significant and very welcome contribution to Scotland's fish processing industry. So although the Governments of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia may not have a particular interest in the continuing strength and health of Scotland's fishing and fish processing industries, many of their citizens do.
There are several issues that I should like to draw to the Minister's attention. In an earlier intervention, I raised with him the questionit has been mentioned by several Membersof the scientific evidence issued this year by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. As I pointed out, we were told that cod was in dangerno great surprise therebut that haddock stocks were healthy, as our fishermen have been arguing for many years. ICES had previously said for many years that haddock was in as much danger as cod, but our fishermen challenged that advice; they said that it was not true and that there were plenty of haddock in the sea.
When ICES scientists finally accepted that point of view and said for the first time that haddock were plentiful, that was a cause for some joy among Scotland's fishing communities, for whom haddock, not cod, is their main catch. They were very pleased that the scientists seem finally to have seen the light. Imagine their horror, therefore, when the ICES recommendations for quotas for the coming year were released a week later. It recommended a 40 per cent. cut in the haddock quota, which would be absolutely disastrous for the Scottish fishing fleet. I accept that during subsequent negotiations the recommendation was reduced to 13 per cent., but such a cut will still cause a great deal of difficulty for our fishing fleet.
The point is that there is growing cynicism among fishing communities. They feel that a game is being played with this scientific evidence. Scientists know perfectly well that whatever they recommend will be
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negotiated down by the Fisheries Council. They are deliberately recommending cuts that they know will never happen, and which are much greater than are needed. However, that causes huge anxiety in fishing communities and it is perhaps time for some transparency in this regard. This time of year is a rollercoaster ride for fishing communities. In the run-up to each Christmasas ICES releases a report and we negotiate with Norway before the Fisheries Council meetinga cloud of black depression descends on those communities. They do not know what position they will be in by the new year, or whether they will even have an industry by then. The recommendation for a reduction in days at sea will also create many problems for our fishing fleet, which is already working to very tight margins.
The situation is not helped by the fact that there is much misunderstanding of the nature of such scientific evidence. Greenpeace, an organisation that I normally have a great deal of time for, issued a report on fishing and, as a result of it, some Membersled, I believe, by the hon. Member for Lewes (Norman Baker)tabled an early-day motion calling for fish to be removed from the House of Commons menu. Among the species specifically mentioned was haddock, but as I have pointed out, haddock is plentiful. Such misinformationthe assumption that all species are in dangeris causing a lot of the difficulties. We have to accept that in certain areas there is a problem with some species, particularly cod. As has been pointed out, there is a lot of evidence showing that climate change, rather than overfishing, is responsible, and that the fish have moved to the colder waters of the north. In fact, the Icelanders and the Faroese do not seem to be having the same problem with cod.
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