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Mr. Alan Reid (Argyll and Bute) (LD): We are almost at the last-chance saloon and we have to get common fisheries policy reform right this time-it is almost certainly the last chance for fish and for fishermen. I wish to echo the consensus across both sides of the House about the need to move away from the centralised system of decision making by the Commission in Brussels and towards a decentralised system based on regional management committees. Such committees would involve
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fishermen, scientists and fishery managers from the member states. Only by decentralising decisions down to the lower level will we ever get a system that sustains both fish and fishermen.

In the short time available to me, I want to raise some of the issues that concern my constituents. In the waters off Argyll and Bute, nephrops are by far the main species that are caught. Of immediate concern to local fishermen are the Commission's proposals for year-on-year cuts in the days at sea of the nephrops fishery. If the restrictions come into effect, fishing will become unprofitable for many vessels.

Nephrops stocks have been shown to be stable and healthy over a long period of time, but the Commission's cod recovery plan and its concerns about cod by-catch have serious implications for the nephrops fisheries. Those concerns are the reason why the Commission wants year-on-year cuts in the days at sea spent by the nephrops fleet.

There is an exemption from the cuts in days at sea for vessels whose catch is made up of less than 1.5 per cent. cod, but in practice fishing vessels have encountered great difficulty in obtaining it. The Clyde Fishermen's Association has told me that many vessels have proven observed data that show that their catches are made up of less than 1.5 per cent. cod, yet the Commission will not accept that evidence and exempt the vessels from the days-at-sea restriction.

The Commission is taking the approach that it will allow exemptions from effort restrictions only if a Swedish grid is fitted to the nephrops trawls. However, its insistence on the use of the Swedish grid does not take account of the measures already successfully employed to reduce the cod by-catch to less than 1.5 per cent. The grid has also been shown to be dangerous to handle, especially in bad weather, and trials have raised doubts about its effectiveness.

Further reductions in days at sea would force many vessels out of business, so it is important that the Minister and his Scottish counterpart make sure at the coming negotiations that the Swedish grid is done away with and that agreement is reached with the Commission so that there is a sustainable and transparent method of measuring the 1.5 per cent. level. Unless exemptions are gained, many fishermen in my constituency will go out of business. That is just one example of how centralised control in Brussels simply does not work.

I wish the Minister all the best at the Council, and hope that he will negotiate a sensible way to measure the 1.5 per cent. cod by-catch level.

9.53 pm

Mr. Andrew Pelling (Croydon, Central) (Ind): The hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Benyon) was right to emphasise the Commission's Green Paper which shows the disaster that the fishing industry has become, with 88 per cent. of European stocks being fished beyond their maximum sustainable yields. He was also right to say that it is important to look at these matters from the consumer's point of view and, given that I represent Croydon, Central, I guess that that is the role that I am playing.

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McDermotts restaurant in Croydon is one of the best fish restaurants in the south-east, and we also have the convenience of Top Fries. That may seem whimsical, but it is important to recognise that the fishing industry's impact goes all the way down to the high street, because it helps to keep the lights on in retail district centres.

We need to adopt a more radical approach to fishing policy. As the hon. Member for Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Mr. MacNeil) said, we need a system based on effort and not on the quotas that are so destructive. My suggestion is for a rather more dirigiste approach-a vessel monitoring system in which all vessels carry global positioning system technology so that the amount of time at sea can be restricted. Another possibility is the introduction of an electronic auction system, with operators buying the right to fish a given area for a set number of hours. That might be a more aggressive and determined approach, but I believe that Croydon residents who see the ecological disaster that is taking place think that such strong intervention is needed.

9.55 pm

Huw Irranca-Davies: I am surprised that I have so much time in which to speak. I will rattle though my speech, and I apologise to the House if the opening Front-Bench contributions were too long. I, too, would have welcomed more time for the debate.

I thank hon. Members for making thoughtful contributions, as they always do in such debates. We have covered CFP reform in all its myriad guises, and I welcome the common agreement in the House on the need for radical reform. I reiterate that the UK Government intend to continue to be right at the front end of that reform.

I welcome the ideas that have been put forward. The common themes that we heard included the need to move away from micro-management-I agree that it is absolutely bizarre that Ministers should sit into the early hours making decisions on twine thickness-and the requirement for fisheries' involvement that is based on good evidence and good science. With the continued support of hon. Members, I hope that we will be successful on some of those matters.

Many priorities have been suggested for the December Council, just as there were many asks during my earlier meeting with fisheries representatives from the whole of the UK. The EU-Norway negotiations will be important for mackerel, as well as for wider issues. The negotiations will be far more difficult this year, but we will continue to engage and fight hard on behalf of the UK's interests, including the interests of the devolved Administrations.

We have heard about the importance of the fleet to coastal communities and the divergent nature of our fleet in communities. We have also reflected on the importance of fisheries to processing and ancillary industries.

I must stress the need to work together. There is a strong and effective working relationship among Ministers in the devolved Administrations and me, as the England and UK Fisheries Minister. When we work together and speak with one voice on CFP reform and other negotiations, the UK's position is stronger. It is important that we recognise that and ensure that we take that approach at all times, as we do.

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Good science and partnerships between science and fisheries are also important. As the weeks and months go by, I hope that we will have more ideas about how we can build on what is already being done well, including in the areas of hon. Members who have spoken. I talk to fishermen, and I sent some a video message in the past few days to congratulate them on the work that they were doing.

We have heard about the importance of the wide remit for people on the sea, including recreational sea anglers. We have also heard about the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, special areas of conservation and special protection areas, and the way to engage wide interests on the ground, including with regard to fisheries. Discards have also been discussed-we have heard about many issues in the contributions of hon. Members, for which I thank them.

We have largely sung from the same hymn sheet, but I cannot conclude without drawing attention to several discordant notes-I suspect that we are heading into the party political season-and I must correct some errors that were made. Unfortunately, although he made a good contribution, by and large, all the errors were in the speech by the hon. Member for Newbury (Mr. Benyon).

The hon. Gentleman was factually incorrect by referring to the environmentally responsible fishing pilot scheme as a stock assessment scheme. The ERF pilot was designed to provide evidence on the environmental and economic impact of segments of the onshore fleet-it was not a stock assessment scheme. It has provided hugely valuable data, and the findings will be published in due course. The scheme was originally meant to run from 6 August 2008 until 15 August 2009. In July, I made the decision to extend the scheme with the existing participants. Fishermen were warned in July, however, that the scheme could close at any time, and we closed it because we had obtained sufficient evidence. The data were being analysed on an ongoing basis, and we knew that the participation catch levels were higher than anticipated. In the interests of sustainable fisheries, I hope that the hon. Gentleman agrees that when a Minister recognises such a thing, he should stop a scheme.

Let me correct the hon. Gentleman's point about quota. Under the Hague preference, we gave some quota to the under-10 metres and some to the over-10 metres. Under the decommissioning scheme, however, it all went to the under-10s. He seemed to mix up latent capacity and unused quota, which is important for producers' organisations and some of the over-10s. They distribute that, including through swaps to the under-10s, and it is important that there is such flexibility.

The MMO has been fully engaged, and that process will be a success. The unions regularly come through my door. They will continue to do so, and I would hope that the hon. Gentleman would extend that invitation to them. I must congratulate him on summing up the Government's achievements-

10 pm

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

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Business without Debate

Sittings of the House

Motion made,

Hon. Members: Object.


Use of Premises (Essex)

10 pm

Bob Spink (Castle Point) (Ind): Residents have a right to enjoy their homes and environment in safety and without fear. It would not be helpful for me to go into too much detail, but sadly an illegal brothel has been established in a decent and respectable area in my constituency.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Alan Haselhurst): Order. I remind the hon. Gentleman that it is not in order to go into very much detail if he is to conform to the Standing Orders of the House.

Bob Spink: On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I understand that Standing Orders indicate that a Member presenting a petition may speak for a short period, typically one to two minutes, and I do not intend to go further than that.

Mr. Deputy Speaker: The point is that the hon. Gentleman has an opportunity to describe the contents of the petition, rather than make a speech in relation to it.

Bob Spink: Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker; I shall try to do that.

Fortunately, the police and Mr. Lawman of the council are seeking to deal with the matter, and I congratulate them on their action to support and protect residents. I am grateful, too, to all the residents who have shown that they care about our community by signing the petition, which will enable the authorities to end the abuse, because under section 17 of the relevant Act they need multiple complaints to apply for a court order. The petitioners deserve the support and protection of the House.

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The petition states:


Sri Lanka

10.3 pm

Mr. Dominic Grieve (Beaconsfield) (Con): This is a petition from more than 300 of my constituents from Beaconsfield and other locations, who declare their concern at the plight of more than 280,000 civilians displaced by the fighting in Sri Lanka.

The petition states:

Following is the full text of the petition:

[ The Petition of constituents of Hon. Dominic Grieve MP for Beaconsfield and others,

Declares that following the end of hostilities in Sri Lanka as announced by President Mahinda Rajapakse, more than 280,000 Tamil civilians, including at least 50,000 children, remain detained indefinitely in cramped, squalid military run camps in the north of the island in breach of international law; further declares that there is a severe lack of medical and humanitarian aid for the needs of these wounded malnourished and severely traumatised war victims; further declares that with the current flooding, spread of diseases and the onset of the Monsoon rains the conditions in these already dilapidated camps will worsen drastically resulting in further deaths; further declares that the detained Tamil people are being held against their will, without any freedom of movement, with the
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intention of making these camps permanent; further declares that the traditional lands of these people are being colonised and illegally occupied by the armed forces; further declares that it is suspected that thousands of Tamils who are not accounted for are being detained incommunicado by the Sri Lankan armed forces; further declares that the perpetrators of war crimes and breaches of international law in Sri Lanka remain free from prosecution.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges HM Government to press for the implementation of the following: the United Nations, International Red Cross and voluntary agencies must be given full access to care for and protect the civilians in the camps, and then help them to return to their traditional homeland in the north and east; a list of all those still alive and in custody should be published, so that families can stop searching for loved ones who are dead; any who continue to be detained as alleged LTTE combatants must be treated in accordance with the provisions of international law, and urgently given access to legal representation; accountability processes must be established to ensure that international aid is not diverted to purposes other than those for which it was given; UN monitors must be given free access to all parts of the island; there must be a full UN investigation into war crimes committed during the war.

And the Petitioners remain, etc. ]


Badman Report (Birmingham, Yardley)

10.4 pm

John Hemming (Birmingham, Yardley) (LD): I was impressed on Saturday by this petition, which came from people who share my concerns about the state wrongly intervening in family life. We may be seeing more such petitions.

The petition reads:

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