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Kelvin Hopkins : Is it not pathetic that a Europhile party should suggest that we try to reduce demand for fish by taking it off the menu in the House of Commons, when it will not challenge the problem of the common fisheries policy because it might reflect on their Euro-enthusiasm?

Mr. Weir: That is a fair point. The CFP is part of the problem, but I repeat that not all fish species are in difficulties. We should think about how to deal with that issue. Members will by now be aware that I shop in the Sainsbury's in Victoria—

Mr. Breed: The hon. Gentleman is after some free samples.

Mr. Weir: Well, I am ever hopeful, but I have had none so far.

I am great fan of fish. I love haddock and, indeed, most Scots will eat haddock rather than cod. But if one goes to Sainsbury's and opens the freezer—sadly, one cannot get fresh fish there, but perhaps the manager is listening—it contains plenty of frozen fish, but very little frozen haddock. There is a lot of frozen cod, in all shapes and forms, from nice pieces to fish fingers containing a little cod. However, we must also look at eating habits. If some species are in danger, we should point out that others are not. I appreciate that much of the cod in the freezer may not be sourced from UK waters, but that is still an interesting point.
 
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I mentioned that fishing was once a strong industry in my constituency. I grew up in Arbroath and I remember a teeming port and fish market. It is all gone now. At the last count, only six or so boats operated out of Arbroath. However, as the hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Wright) mentioned earlier—he is no longer in his place—many fishermen have diversified into other areas. In my area, the council has turned part of the port into a marina for yachting, and it is very successful. Many of the smaller fishermen have diversified into pleasure trips or chartering out their boats. However, they have run into another problem. Under the EU rebated fuels directive, there is an issue of how often the boat is used for commercial and other purposes. I took that matter up with the Inland Revenue and the particular problem that my constituents had was solved, but if we are to encourage fishermen to diversify such matters have to be sorted out, so that they do not jump out of the frying pan into the fire.

As the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) mentioned, fishermen are having great difficulty with the cost of fuel. They are working on tight margins and the ever-increasing cost of fuel impinges on those margins. For once, it is not the fuel duty that is the problem because they can use rebated fuel—red diesel. The problem is the cost of the actual fuel. To be fair, most of the recent rise in fuel prices has not been in fuel duty, but the fuel itself, and that has caused great problems. There is a large fish processing industry in my constituency, but the markets are mostly in the large urban areas. The cost of fuel works through the chain. The fishermen have to get their fish to market—very quickly in the case of fresh fish—to ensure that it is still saleable. In areas such as Na h-Eileanan an Iar, the lobsters and crabs that are caught have to reach the market very quickly and the cost of fuel is a huge burden on the industry. It is the same for those who make smokies and other prepared fish in my constituency. They have to get them to Sainsbury's in Victoria, and that adds to the cost. The cost of fuel has a serious impact on fishing and fish-related industries, especially those in rural areas, which is where most of them are situated.

The Minister was criticised for his cricket analogies by my hon. Friend the Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil) and the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland. I do not share that complaint. Cricket is a growing sport in my constituency. A couple of years ago, Arbroath junior cricket club beat clubs from all over England to win the junior championship.

Mr. Salmond: My hon. Friend will note that Scotland's recent triumph in the International Cricket Council trophy means not only entry to the cricket world cup but that we are now 12th in the world.

Mr. Weir rose—

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. Fascinated as I am with cricket, the House will know that I would not necessarily argue that it should be in order in this debate. No doubt Members who want to pursue that interest will find that they can sublimate it through the all-party cricket group.

Mr. Weir: With that advertisement, I shall move back to fishing, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
 
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Fishing is important to my constituents, as it is to the whole of north-east Scotland. We are concerned about the proposals for a reduction in quotas and days at sea. I wish the Minister well in his negotiations in the Fisheries Council and hope that he returns with a good deal, otherwise our fishing communities will yet again face serious problems in the new year.

The hon. Member for South Holland and The Deepings (Mr. Hayes), who I was shocked to discover is even younger than me, mentioned the position of the CFP. The change in Conservative policy is interesting. The hon. Member for North Shropshire (Mr. Paterson) did not deny the remarks attributed to his new leader, who, on the same day as he ditched Conservative policy on the Scottish regiments, also apparently ditched his party's long-standing policy on fishing. That is a shame, as the CFP is at the root of many of the problems. We and many Labour Members are opposed to it, and even the Liberals have concerns about it—I shall put it no higher than that. The CFP has been a disaster for Scottish fishing. It was brought in under a Conservative Government and Scottish fishing has suffered ever since.

5.2 pm

Mr. Douglas Carswell (Harwich) (Con): This is the first time that I have had the privilege and honour to take part in a fisheries debate. I shall use this opportunity briefly to place on record my view that it is time for the United Kingdom to withdraw from the European Union's common fisheries policy.

It is time for an independent British fishing policy made to suit the local interests of our country. I agree with much that has been said in the Chamber this afternoon. Much has been said with more eloquence than I could put it about the failures of the CFP. Members have told us that after decades of the CFP there are fewer fish and fewer fishermen, and that fishing fleets have dwindled. Other Members spoke about the high cost of the CFP to the taxpayer. By almost any measure the policy has been a failure.

In my constituency, there was a thriving fishing industry before the Europeanisation of our fishing policy. Before I was born, many people earned a good living from the sea, but that has almost all gone. The fish, the fishing fleets, the livelihoods have all disappeared. If I am honest, I must say that that happened under Governments of both parties. Something is fundamentally wrong with the way we manage fisheries in this country.

David T.C. Davies (Monmouth) (Con): In response to some of the sedentary comments made by Scottish National party Members, does my hon. Friend agree that any political party that has supported membership of the European Union or its forerunner the European Economic Community must take its share of the blame? That includes almost all the political parties represented in the House.

Mr. Carswell: I agree. I am here not to score points or to make cheap partisan political points, but to talk about what we can do to ensure that we have a proper fishing policy in the interests of the people who live on this island.

As was said very eloquently earlier, fish do not stop at arbitrary boundaries. Fish do not recognise arbitrary divisions on a map. That is certainly true, but by
 
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Europeanising member states' fishing policies and by pushing power away from member states and putting it into the hands of unelected, unaccountable quangos in Brussels, the democratic dynamic and the democratic scrutiny of policy have been removed. That is the fundamental reason why the common fisheries policy has failed. We can talk about the detail, the quotas and the changes that can be made; we can tinker and try to improve things, but without that democratic scrutiny, the CFP will always get it wrong.

It is said that that which no one owns, no one will care for, and the member states have lost ownership of their fisheries policy, so the people who are left caring for it are not accountable to the people whose livelihoods depend on the sea—fishermen. We need to push power away from the unelected quangos in Brussels and move it down not simply to the member state but beyond. Again, there is agreement about that. It is no coincidence that countries with successful, thriving fishing industries—Iceland and Norway—have retained their capacity to make their policy independently. They have much to teach us.

Policy should not be simply shifted down to member states as an end in itself, but as a means to the greater end of localising control. In Essex or Scotland, people could have local control over fishing policy in their areas, but the first step, the prerequisite, is to push control down to the nation state.


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