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Baroness Byford: My Lords, will the Minister explain further the arrangements that the Government are making? They have spoken about decommissioning; but how much money is being set aside for those members of the fishing fleet who have their boats tied up and cannot fish at the present time and who do not want to decommission? Secondly, if the Scottish Parliament has made this sum of money available, what do the Government intend to do about the English, Welsh and Northern Irish fishermen?
Lord Carter: My Lords, as I have explained, an announcement will be made within the next few days which will set out the Government's proposals in response to the problems presently faced by the fishing fleet. I cannot say at this stage how much will be involved. However, I shall be surprised if the scheme does not involve the decommissioning of vessels. As I said, £60 million has been allocated over a period of three years for the UK--that is, for the devolved administrations and the Westminster Parliament. The tying up of boats does not provide the long-term solution to the problem of over-capacity within the fishing fleet; nor does it provide any short-term conservation benefit for fish stocks. For example, the protection of the abundance of small haddock is best addressed through technical measures. To tie the boats up and offer, as was proposed in Scotland, £1,000 for a period of time does not solve the long-term problem. Once the stocks have recovered, the tied-up boats are there and the over-capacity still exists.
Lord Carter: My Lords, all the measures attempted by other member states to support their fishermen must be within EU rules. The Commission is much more active than it used to be in examining the way in which the rules are interpreted. For example, the French attempted to compensate their fishermen for the cost of fuel. This was immediately stamped on by the Commission.
Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, my noble friend made reference to over-capacity in the fishing fleet. Does he mean the European fishing fleet or the British fishing fleet? Would British fishermen be better off remaining within the common fisheries policy or, indeed, coming out of it?
Lord Carter: My Lords, I must say that the last part of my noble friend's intervention comes as a complete surprise to me. I should point out that there is over-capacity throughout the European fleet. I shall repeat a line that I know my noble friend has heard a number of times previously--however, I shall try once more: withdrawing from the common fisheries policy is totally unrealistic. I am sure that my noble friend knows that fish are a natural and mobile resource; they do not respect national boundaries.
Conserving fish stocks requires co-operation among member states in the EU. Pretending that leaving the CFP will solve all fishermen's problems is a distraction from the real issues with which the country is faced today. Although we recognise that, at present, the CFP is far from perfect, the Government's approach is to work for an improvement within it. The way in which the Irish Sea cod recovery programme--and now the North Sea cod and northern hake plans--are being developed is a good start. It shows that the CFP can work.
Viscount Cranborne: My Lords, despite the admirably succinct way in which the Minister answered the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, I am afraid that I am still in something of a quandary. Can the noble Lord explain for the benefit of the House how it is that the CFP has benefited both fish stocks and British fisherman more than, for example, a 200-mile exclusion zone would have done?
Lord Carter: My Lords, we have in fact done well out of the closure plan. Although we received more than 50 per cent of the allowable catch in the closure area, what we actually have is less than 50 per cent of the area to be closed.
The Earl of Caithness: My Lords, when the Government make their announcement in the next few days or weeks, can the Minister say whether it will affect the whole of the British fleet--as set out in the
The Minister of State, Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (Lord Macdonald of Tradeston): My Lords, during recent talks on the implementation of the public/private partnership for London Underground, our negotiators made detailed proposals to address the concerns of Bob Kiley, the Transport Commissioner. Last week, Mr Kiley resolved these issues into a 55-point plan designed to give him unified management control over key areas of activity under PPP contracts, including maintenance of track and signalling. Those proposals are largely acceptable to the Government. It was agreed with Mr Kiley on 2nd February that modifications would be sought inside the structure of the PPP. If that agreement is respected, I believe that we could have a basis for agreement that would also be acceptable to prospective private sector partners.
Lord Ezra: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reasonably positive statement. However, does he agree that this whole issue has dragged on for too long and that, in the meantime, journey times on the Underground have lengthened, delays have become more frequent, and overcrowding at peak periods--both on trains and stations--has increased thereby raising safety issues? Can the noble Lord therefore confirm what I believe is implied in his Answer; namely, that when the solution is finally announced it will include unified management for the whole of the Underground system, so that such issues can be dealt with vigorously and coherently?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, our priority is to stop the political wrangling and to get on with the serious business of doubling annual investment on the London Underground. I am sure that that is also the priority for Tube passengers and, indeed, for noble Lords. When Mr Kiley returns from America at the end of the week, we shall press on to try to ensure that the public/private partnership, suitably modified, is implemented as a matter of priority. Londoners deserve no less.
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, on the question of the threatened dispute, I should point out to my noble friend that when the demand for safety was first made the request was for a joint safety forum. My understanding is that this body has now been established; that it has met; and that the suggestion is that it need not meet again for some months.
The other three demands from the trade unions are: jobs for life; no staff reductions in any circumstances; and that all staff should be kept on existing terms and conditions. Therefore, although safety is a priority for us, it is not an issue in respect of which the operation of the London Underground should be stopped for a day, or even two days, to the great inconvenience of Londoners. I hope that the unions will think again.
Lord Brabazon of Tara: My Lords, bearing in mind that we seem to be getting contradictory daily press reports on the matter, can the Minister tell us exactly who is pulling the strings at present? For example, is it Mayor Livingstone, Mr Kiley, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer or, indeed--as we probably hope--is it the Minister in this House?
Lord Macdonald of Tradeston: My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for that expression of misplaced confidence. However, the noble Lord is right. The Mayor did make an optimistic statement last Thursday when he said that a deal on the Tube is now very close. He said:
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