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Lord Morris: My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend for giving way. His words sound so comforting, but why is it then that Spain still has the fourth largest fishing fleet in the world behind Japan, the USSR and the United States of America? I take those figures from the Lloyd's Register of December 1993.
It is important that all those involved move forward in as constructive an atmosphere as possible. That is what we have sought to do since the beginning of the year. We have been working closely with the industry over implementation and will continue to do so as the remaining details are put into place.
I should like now to turn briefly to the question of decommissioning. It is wholly wrong to suggest, as some have done, that the additional funds announced in January are to help make room for the Spanish. As I have already said, the Western Waters Agreement does not involve us giving up a single fish to Spain. The reason we need to remove capacity from our fleet is because of the general pressure on stocks and the need to meet targets which have been set for all member states under the so called multi-annual guidance programme.
The industry is also concerned about enforcement, a subject which has reared its head on several occasions this evening. The Government entirely agree that effective enforcement is a key issue in making the future arrangements work. Under the arrangement, there will be a requirement for vessels to hail in and out, both to flag state and to coastal state. This will mean that we have far better knowledge of where Spaniards are than we do now and we should be able to target our enforcement activities better and therefore more cost effectively. We already have good co-operation with other enforcement services, particularly with the Irish, and we have already started discussions with the Irish on the most effective ways to take advantage of the key enforcement role we both have as coastal states.
Just as important, the agreement reached in December provides that the Commission will make a report every year on enforcement activity by member states and by its own inspectorate. This report will be published. In this way illegal activities by any member state will be shown up in a way which they are not now. My right honourable friend has already given a clear assurance that we will do what is necessary to ensure that we have the men and equipment in place to enforce the new rules effectively.
The noble Lord, Lord Beaumont, asked what steps the Government will take to ensure that we know how many Spanish-owned vessels are fishing under the UK flag. I am grateful to him for giving me prior notice of that question. From our monitoring of landings abroad by British registered fishing vessels, we estimate that around 100 UK vessels have a significant Spanish interest. Up-to-date information on ownership in terms of shareholdings is no longer available because with the introduction of the Merchant Shipping (Registration of Shipping) Regulations 1993, the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen no longer collects details of shareholdings in UK companies owning British registered vessels.
My noble friend Lord Kinnoull asked whether we could delay Spanish entry into the Irish Box until the conservation measures are agreed. The Commission is required to bring forward proposals for enhanced conservation measures by June; and the Council is to reach decisions on them before the end of the year before new rules on the Irish Box apply from 1st January 1996.
The noble Lords, Lord Stoddart, and Lord Carter, asked why the UK abstained in December. As I have already explained, there was a legal commitment to integrate Spain and Portugal into the CFP. We fought hard for two years and secured major concessions to limit the extent of that integration. Beyond expectation, we secured continued measures to limit Spanish fishing in western waters and exclusion from the North Sea. As I indicated, the measure of our success is Spanish fishermen's fury at the deal.
However, what we need is an effective voice in 1995 while the implementing regulations are being discussed and finalised. A vote against the deal in 1994 would have been a silly tactic, satisfying perhaps emotionally in the short term, but disadvantageous in the long term if our aim is, as it is, to maximise the UK take. It is a practical matter. We abstained because we had not achieved 100 per cent. of the very ambitious negotiating objectives that we set ourselves.
My noble friends Lord Kinnoull and Lord Clanwilliam raised the subject of satellite monitoring. The UK fisheries departments are currently in the early stages of trials to test and evaluate the use of electronic systems for the continuous position monitoring of fishing vessel movements. Parallel trials are being undertaken by other member states. Those trials are due to be completed by 30th June of this year and will then be assessed by the Fisheries Council. If successful those systems undoubtedly have the potential to be an effective tool in the Community's enforcement effort.
The noble Lord, Lord Carter, asked about the detailed implementation of the Irish Box agreement. As the noble Lord said, it is the responsibility of member states to draw up plans for implementation and control of effort. However, those plans have to be submitted to the Commission by 31st March. It will then make proposals to the Council for a decision in June. The measures will therefore be the subject of Council regulations, but the details remain to be settled.
The noble Lord also asked what proportion of the Irish Box was in Irish waters and what proportion in British waters. The larger part of the Irish Box falls in Irish waters. The Irish and British Governments are co-operating closely to ensure that they will be able effectively to enforce the limit on 40 Spanish vessels in the Irish Box.
My noble friend Lord Mountgarret posed, I hope, a hypothetical question as to what would happen if fishermenperhaps British fishermenattacked Spaniards in western waters after 1st January next year. During 1995 all the member states will be working with the Commission to set fair and clear rules for western waters from January of next year. There should therefore be no misunderstanding of the rules by any EU fishermen. It is for each member state to police the fisheries policy in its own waters against all the member states. I do not want to go down the road to which my noble friend points. I simply say that the Royal Navy fisheries protection squadron is tasked both to protect fishermen fishing lawfully and to enforce the rules even handedlyand that is what it will do.
Let me turn to conservation. In the Irish Sea, we are particularly concerned about the state of the cod stocks. The annual setting of total allowable catches is of course informed by the advice from scientists on the state of the stocks. But more is needed than simply cutting permitted catch levels. Improvements in fishing technology rapidly catch up with attempts to control effort.
So the provision in the new rules for the Commission to bring forward, later on this year, proposals to improve technical conservation, is very welcome. As a first step, the Commission has already arranged a meeting of scientists to consider, in the light of the state of fish stocks in western waters, what measures might be appropriate. Clearly, we and the industry will be taking a close interest in these discussions and urging the Commission to take action where this seems appropriate in order to conserve fish stocks.
My noble friend Lady Elles referred to predation of fish by seals. The noble Baroness may be interested to know that a recent UK population estimate for grey seals is 102,700 with a year-on-year increase of about 10 per cent. The number of common seals is also rising. It is now estimated to be in the region of 26,000. MAFF is funding a research project with the sea mammal research unit to examine the impact of seal populations on commercial fisheries in the North Sea through a study of seal diet, numbers and foraging behaviour.
I turn brieflytime is against meto the dispute between the European Union and Canada in the Greenland halibut fishery off Newfoundland. In substance, I can add little to the answers that I gave last
My noble friend Lord Morris said that Her Majesty's Government should apologise to Canada. The Canadian Government have made no criticism of the British Government. On the contrary, the Canadian Government have several times expressed their appreciation of the role Her Majesty's Government have played in seeking to keep the temperature down, to promote negotiation and to obtain a settlement to the dispute. That is what we continue to do.
The UK occupies a unique position in the affair. That has real advantages because it means that, as friends of Canada, we can interpret its position in the best possible light and seek to ensure that Spain's point of view is also fully understood. I believe that that is constructive and also, ultimately, in our own interests if it leads to better enforcement in fisheries closer to home.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, and my noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke referred to the record of Spanish fishermen in terms of cheating. If one looks at enforcement within the CFP rather than NAFO, it is true that some Spanish vessels have been found guilty of cheating. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the Spanish commit a higher proportion of serious offences than other member states. In 1993 there were more inspections of Spanish vessels by the various enforcement bodies than of vessels from any other member state. Despite that, only a relatively small number of offences discovered were considered serious enough to take to court.
My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke raised the question of sanctions. I do not believe that it is helpful to speak of economic sanctions. That kind of talk can only escalate the dispute with Canada. Sanctions would be an unconstructive way of proceeding and, in the view of the Government, totally disproportionate to the issues under discussion.
My noble friend Lord Willoughby de Broke also asked what the Government would do to ensure that the Spanish ships allowed into our waters do not catch more than their allotted quota and that they use the correct nets. The Government have already committed £26 million to ensure effective enforcement within British fishery limits. That includes £19 million on enforcement at sea.
The noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, referred to the UK's action in Brussels in relation to the European Union's response to Canada. The initial note verbale, as it is called, was couched in general terms and reserved the Union's right to take any retaliatory action. When detailed proposals were discussed, we made it absolutely clear that we were completely opposed to economic sanctions or any other disproportionate action.
My noble friend Lord Clanwilliam asked what locus the European Union Commission has in addressing itself to Canada. The European Union and Canada are both contracting parties of the regional fisheries organisation in whose waters the dispute occurred. They need to resolve the dispute through diplomacy. The EU's common fisheries policy involves all fisheries in which EU fishermen engage, both within and outside EU waters. So the Commission has a duty to represent the member states' interests in discussions and negotiations with other countries on fisheries matters.
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