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If provisions are entrenched in the way that I have described, we would be lumbered for ever with a common fisheries policy that is not working. It has not protected the stocks and it has ruined the British
fishing industry, because that industry has never been allowed to rebuild behind its own waters, which should be behind the 200-mile or median line. Every other country has managed to do that. I look at the prosperous industries that have been built up in New Zealand, Norway, Iceland, the United States and Canada. Those are examples of fishing industries that have been rebuilt behind limits, because only nation states have an interest in conserving their own stock to hand on to the next generation of fishermen. They do not want just to loot them as an expendable resource
Rob Marris: No, I merely wished to say that although my hon. Friend has given examples from around the world, and he is much more knowledgeable about them than I am, to suggest that the Canadian industry has been rebuilt behind national boundaries is complete and utter nonsense. I say that as a Canadian citizen. The cod stocks in the Grand Banks collapsed about 15 years ago. They have not been rebuilt and now the west coast salmon industry is about to collapse.
Mr. Mitchell: The Canadian fishing industry is making as much money out of catching shellfishincluding crabs and lobstersas it was out of catching fish. My hon. Friend must not attribute the consequences of climate change to a lack of national control over fishing resources
Mr. Borrow: At the beginning of my hon. Friends contribution, he said that his amendments were ones that people who supported the treaty and the European Union could vote for, because they would repatriate powers relating to the common fisheries policy, if we thought that that was important. As a pro-European who is broadly in favour of the treaty, I am somewhat tempted by his argument. I am also aware that were that to happen we would need to renegotiate the treaty to ensure that that clause was included when we approve the treaty, which may happen next year. How confident is my hon. Friend that other member states would go along with that?
I am grateful for my hon. Friends support, although I am doubtful about his querulous fears about what would ensue if my amendments were passed. They would just delete the common fisheries
policy. We would be saying that that was no longer a central policy of the European Union, no longer part of the constitution and no longer an issue that has to be dictated from Brussels. We would be saying that we could replace it with either a national policy, which I would prefer, or with agreements between the coastal states that actually fish in the waters concerned, rather than allowing a whole host of vessels in from areas that have no interest in those waters except catching the fish and getting it home as quickly as possible.
The amendments would open the way to change, and should therefore have wider support. Certainly the common fisheries policy has prevented the British fishing industry from rebuilding in the way in which it would logically have done after it lost Icelands watersby concentrating on our own territorial waters and rebuilding fishing there. At the moment we cannot do that because our waters are open to access by other vessels. Only the nation state has the interest in its own territorial waters, but we could come to agreements with other states on exchanges of catches or quotas. The point is that we would decide our own policy, instead of having it imposed by agreements from Brussels that involve other nations with no interest in fishing or in our fishing stocks. That would also contribute to a more sensible common fisheries policy.
We all want to see the European Union widened. I want to see it become wider and shallower, not wider and deeper. It would be desirable, for example, to bring in countries such as Iceland and Norway. We could never bring those countries into the European Union at the moment because fishing is crucial to themfar more crucial than it is to us. They cannot allow access to their fishing grounds on the scale that would be required by the Common Market and by Europe. That stopped the Norwegians from entering in 1972 and stopped them from adhering in a subsequent referendum. It certainly keeps out Iceland. There can be no way of broadening Europe by bringing in those nations as long as we keep the common fisheries policy, because that would mean that every country would want access to those nations fishing resources. They would be insane to allow that.
Let me conclude by pointing out that the policy has not worked and is not working. It is time for us to end it, and amendment No. 225 provides us with the opportunity to do so. I hope for a vote, although of course that is at your discretion, Mrs. Heal. My tellers are ready, my troops are armed and I think that the amendment is a rather better way of dealing with the issue than amendment No. 222. I hope that we can have a vote on it.
Bill Wiggin (Leominster) (Con): I rise to support amendment No. 222. Ministers and bureaucrats in Brussels may well argue that the treaty is merely putting into words what is happening in practice. Indeed, we heard that from the Deputy Leader of the House when she summed up earlier. In previous written answers about the constitution, Ministers have stated:
Existing Community competence over marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy derives from article 102 of the UK treaty of accession.[ Official Report, 2 March 2005; Vol. 431, c. 1159W.]
No other treaty is this explicit, however, about taking away member states powers over their marine environment and biological resources. It is certainly not that clear or explicit in article 102 of the accession treaty, which states:
the Council, acting on a proposal from the Commission, shall determine conditions for fishing with a view to ensuring protection of the fishing grounds and conservation of the biological resources of the sea.
I recognise that the legal arguments on the extent to which the article divides responsibility for fisheries between Europe and the UK have been raging for years. However, instead of taking the opportunity to clarify the arrangements and set clear red lines, enshrined in a treaty, the Government have stood back and are letting it slip away. Action to defend British interests could have been taken earlier, because the dangers had been recognised by the European Parliament, scientists and Labour MPs. Even the Government expressed concern over exclusive competence.
When pressed in the European Scrutiny Committee by the hon. Member for Moray (Angus Robertson) on whether the UK Government were happy to see marine resources as an exclusive competence of the EU, the former Minister, the right hon. Member for Neath (Mr. Hain), stated:
No, we are looking at this.
Perhaps his mum wrote that bit; I do not know. Brussels tried to take more powers from the nation state in the marine strategy directive. During the European Standing Committee debate on that subject two years ago, the former Minister responsible, the hon. Member for Exeter (Mr. Bradshaw), said:
One thing that we are worried about, as I have said, is that the draft directive appears to be a power grab by the Commission in terms of competences and what could or could not be done. That is completely unacceptable.[ Official Report, European Standing Committee, 14 February 2006; c. 7.]
In the Lisbon Treaty, however, the Government are prepared to hand over, perhaps once and for all, exclusive competence over our marine biological resources. That is widely regarded as unnecessary and will not bring benefits to our marine environment.
within the context of the other exclusive competencies of the EU which are detailed in the draft Constitution, the inclusion of the conservation of marine biological resources is anomalous and unjustified.
at the attribution of exclusive competence for the conservation of marine biological resources under Article 12 of the constitutional treaty...since it will tend to marginalise the competence of national and regional authorities which have in the past succeeded in preserving resources which are now under threat and whose protection is sought.
Ministers should reconsider their position over the EU exclusive competence for the conservation of marine biological resources, with a view to getting this deleted from the proposed EU constitution so that the principle of subsidiarity may apply to fisheries, as it does to other matters.
to have the existing 12-mile limits made permanent instead of being subject to renewal every ten years.
The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) chairs Labours Euro-Safeguards campaign. In an article in his weblog, he notes the change from common fisheries policy to exclusive competence over the
marine biological resources of the sea.
We are told that most of the Constitution is already in earlier treaties. Much isnt and it also builds new powers on the back of earlier provisions...These and many other major changes are being presented as tinkering and tidying up, too unimportant for Parliament to discuss. This legislative confidence trick is unworthy of a government which should listen to the views of Parliament and people and allow full and free debate in Parliament before any referendum or surrender of parliamentary sovereignty or British laws and freedom. You cant win wholehearted consent by confidence tricks, half truths and closing down debate.
The hon. Gentleman is absolutely right. I have read his articles in The House Magazine, and I hope that I have not got him in trouble with Tommy the Whip or his wifewhoever he is more frightened of. However, I liked what he said earlier, and I apologise if I have got him into a pickle. He is right to say that we should co-operate with our European partners in improving the overall health of the marine environment and fish stocks, when possiblebut the provisions in the treaty, left unamended and in their entirety, go much further.
When the Environment Secretary was asked in a written question what the effect of the proposed change would be, the Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the hon. Member for Chatham and Aylesford (Jonathan Shaw), decided to defer the answer to a later date. If there is to be no change, or if the proposed changes were merely tidying-up exercises, why are Ministers unable to respond to what is essentially a straightforward question?
We need clarification of the responsibilities of the nation state and the European Union. The provisions in the treaty do not do that; instead, they potentially leave the door open to further powers being slowly sucked away from Britain by directives, regulations, European judges, and stealth.
One of the biggest problems with the EU and the CFP has been discarding, as the hon. Member for Great Grimsby noted earlier. Under the strict total allowable catch regime, it is estimated that between 40 and 60 per cent. of fish caught are thrown back into the sea, dead. Discard rates for the UK fisheries are high. The discard rate for North sea cod caught by English and Welsh vessels in the North sea stood at 43.8 per cent. in the last three months of 2006. Between April and June 2006, 42.2 per cent. of west of Scotland
haddock was discarded by Scottish vessels. In total, 62.7 per cent. of west of Scotland saithe and 83.5 per cent. of west of Scotland whiting were discarded by Scottish vessels between July and September 2006. That means that a total of 246.3 tonnes of fish were discarded, but only 48.6 tonnes were landedor that about 5 tonnes of fish were discarded for every tonne landed. That cannot go on.
Such data are collected and sent to the Commission by this country, but other countries, notably France and Spain, do not provide the necessary information. Moreover, the European Commission does not appear to be taking action against those countries, and its discard atlas appears to have been kicked into the long grass.
the conservation of marine biological resources under the Common Fisheries Policy
when it is not taking adequate responsibility for its existing powers and authority? Europe has got to get to grips with tackling discarding: under this treaty, that position will not change, and it could be made worse.
Nor will this treaty guarantee greater fairness for our fishermen. For example, we have seen the Commission penalise British crews for over-fishing herring and mackerel, and subsequently they have had to pay back the extra fish over five years. Yet the French over-fished bluefin tunawhich is an endangered speciesby 40 per cent. in 2005 and by 30 per cent. in 2006, and the Commission did nothing except waive EU penalties and negotiate an international amnesty.
That is not providing adequate protection to marine biological resources. The opportunity to improve the management of fish stocks and the marine environment has been wasted. More powers will go to Brussels; it is enshrined in the treaty. The Government have ignored the Opposition, Labour MPs, the European Parliament and scientists. Our marine environment is not in safe hands. The provisions will do nothing to improve the situation. Therefore, we should accept the amendment.
Mr. Hendrick: I oppose amendment No. 82, as it is certainly clear from many speeches made by Opposition Members that the role of this amendment and indeed many others is to block the competences introduced by the Lisbon treaty. Today the President of the European Parliament starts his official visit to the United Kingdom. As a former MEP and someone who is proud of this Parliament, I take great exception to many of the comments made by Opposition Members regarding the legitimacy of the directly elected European Parliament in both its current and its proposed form, which would include many improvements made by the Lisbon treaty.
At the moment, the European Parliament has 785 directly elected Members. That figure will be made more manageable for a European Union of 27 member states by being reduced to 751. Limitations will be made at the bottom endno country will have fewer than six MEPsas well as at the top end: no member state will have more than 96. That will make the European Parliament much more effective than it is and, given the other changes, which I shall mention shortly, much more legitimate in the eyes of the European peoples.
Mr. Nigel Evans (Ribble Valley) (Con): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that Hans-Gert Pöttering told the Council of Europe last year that the constitutional treaty before us is virtually the same as the constitution rejected by France and Holland?
Mr. Hendrick: I thank my neighbour from Ribble Valley for that contribution. I will be having lunch with Hans-Gert Pöttering tomorrow. Although many of the things that were in the constitutional treaty are in the reform treaty, a good deal are not.
The UK will gain one extra MEP, making a total of 73. Although we currently have 78, that number would have fallen under the terms of the Nice treaty to 72. In terms of representation in the European Parliament, Britain will have more under the new treaty than it would have had otherwise. That is a gain and a good achievement for the United Kingdom.
To bring about the extra legitimacy warranted by the European Parliament, the new treaty will extend democratic accountability by making co-decision the standard legislative procedure; it has been renamed the ordinary legislative procedure. Co-decision, which will give the European Parliament the same power in certain competences as the Council, was introduced by the Maastricht treaty with the support of many official Opposition Members and of Mrs. Thatcher. I wonder what Mrs. Thatcher would think if she were in the Chamber today, given the contributions of many Opposition Members.
Co-decision will not be extended everywhere. As many Members have pointed out, the key policy areas requiring national control and national Governmenttypically foreign and defence policywill remain in national hands. In addition, co-decision will not affect the ability of the Commission, acting with member states in the Council, to provide protection from threats to animal or human health. I am confident that co-decision will not block common agricultural policy reform and common fisheries policy reform, despite the many comments that we have heard, particularly from nationalists and from one or two Labour Members.
Overall, the treaty will expand member states influence by giving them greater say over all parts of the EU budget. When I served in the European Parliament, we had no control whatever over agricultural spending, but the Lisbon treaty will introduce that innovation.
Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): My hon. Friend spoke about having more control over the budget. Is there anything in this treaty-cum-constitution that will in any way lead to the European Union having its accounts signed off properly?
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