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Lord Rooker: My Lords, this fantastic brief does not enable me to answer the first point of the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith. He has me "bang to rights" on the EU.

With regard to the costs aspects, we stick to the £20 million that the noble Lord mentioned. We are considering policy options at the moment. Obviously, we have had much information from service providers and manufacturers.

During the passage of the anti-terrorism Bill, when this issue is relevant in terms of the data holding aspect, I shall ensure that I get the necessary answers on the cost.

Regarding the appointments, we propose that the technical advisory board should consist of six people able to represent the interests of industry, six people able to represent the interests of the intercepting agencies and a neutral chair.

As I have said, the appointments must conform with the usual conduct of selection set out by the Commission for Public Appointments, by which we shall abide. We wish to appoint the neutral chair first. It is likely that the identity of the chairman or chairwoman will be announced in response to a Parliamentary Question.

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We are undecided about industry representatives. Some potential members have stated that they would be willing to participate only if their involvement is not made public. This is a sensitive issue and one that will require further examination.

I regret to say that I do not have the answers to the remainder of the questions that have been put to me. I shall write to both noble Lords as quickly as possible.

Lord Phillips of Sudbury: My Lords, I do not wish to prolong discussion on the order, but I should like to ask the Minister one further question. When he responds to the question I put to him on the cost of provision of the mark one black boxes, perhaps he will add a paragraph covering the mark two black boxes. The industry is fast-moving and I understand that concerns have been expressed about the second generation black boxes and the Government's attitude as regards making a contribution towards the cost.

Lord Rooker: My Lords, any further information that I can obtain that can be made available with regard to the points he has put to me will be included in my written response.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

Fishing Vessels (Decommissioning) Scheme 2001

8.11 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord Whitty) rose to move, That the scheme laid before the House on 15th October be approved [6th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, under this scheme, we will be making available £6 million in decommissioning grants to English fishermen. I should like briefly to highlight the key aspects of the scheme. These have been the subject of full consideration with industry representatives.

Applications are now open to over 10-metre vessels with a category A licence and at least 75 recorded days at sea in each of the past two years. Vessels also have to be at least 10 years old. The scheme operates on a competitive tender basis with bids ranked on a pound per gross tonne basis.

Successful applicants will be allowed to dispose of or transfer their fish quota entitlements to another vessel owner or to a producers' organisation. They will have up to three years to complete the transfer. There are differing views within the industry on the transfer of quota, but we feel that this option is the most practical and best value for money.

The principal method of disposal of decommissioned vessels will be scrapping. However, we recognise this country's proud maritime heritage

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and I am pleased to say that the rules of the scheme do make provision for the preservation of vessels of particular heritage significance.

The closing date for applications is 16th November 2001 and successful applicants will be expected to have decommissioned their vessels and surrendered all licences and entitlements before 27th February 2002. We will also aim to let applicants know the results of their application as soon as possible after the closing date so that they can have the maximum amount of time to arrange for the disposal of their vessel.

The scheme is a key part of a £22.5 million package of aid which we are making available to the English fishing industry in recognition of the difficulties currently facing the fishing industry. I commend the scheme to the House.

Moved, That the scheme laid before the House on 15th October be approved [6th Report from the Joint Committee].—(Lord Whitty.)

Lord Greaves: My Lords, from these Benches we offer our broad support for the scheme. It is virtually inevitable that a scheme of this kind has been put in place, given that we have too few fish being chased by too many boats. As a result, major cuts have been made to fishing quotas. However, we look forward to seeing the results of research looking into alternatives to decommissioning which DEFRA has commissioned at the University of Portsmouth. In particular, we hope to find out whether in the future other means of effort reduction in the industry might be possible. Perhaps the Minister will be able to comment on this point.

A further concern that has been expressed relates to the tight deadlines which have been set for the receipt of applications. The Minister has told the House that the final date for applications is tomorrow, 16th November. Furthermore, decommissioning and the surrender of licences has to take place by 27th February next year. Can the Minister comment on whether sufficient applications have been received to take up the funding available in the scheme? Could a measure of flexibility be built into the system if it proves difficult to complete decommissioning and surrender of quotas by 27th February 2002?

A further point of concern is whether the effort towards fleet reduction is genuinely being shared evenly around all the appropriate areas of the European Union or whether in fact the effort is falling unduly on to fishermen in this country because here the scheme is being enforced with rigour. Perhaps the Minister can tell noble Lords what evidence the Government will produce in due course to demonstrate that similar decommissioning schemes are being put in place throughout the relevant areas of the European Union.

Finally, concerns have been expressed about the trade in quotas, to which the Minister briefly referred. It is feared that quotas for traditional fishing areas could be lost. I refer in particular to certain parts of the South West which have been badly affected. The economic and social effects on communities go rather

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further than the narrow terms of the statutory instrument. Perhaps the Minister could outline for noble Lords measures the Government intend to introduce to provide support for such communities.

Lord Glentoran: My Lords, Members on this side of the House understand the reasons for bringing forward this instrument. We, too, wish to achieve the key objective; namely, the preservation of fish stocks for the future. However, I have a few points of concern.

First, I wish to comment on the general performance of the common fisheries policy. I am not confident that it is doing its job adequately, any more than is the common agricultural policy. Along with the leader of the Cornish fishermen, mentioned by my honourable friend in another place, I am rather cynical about the political process involved in agreeing to the cuts in quotas. Those negotiations appear to allow every Minister concerned to return declaring that they have done better than anyone could have expected.

Today I had sight of a report on Spanish fishermen, who fortunately were caught out by a Conservative MEP, Mr Struan Stevenson. The fishermen had attempted to switch moneys destined to help towards decommissioning into fleet reconstruction. I apologise to the Minister that I have not been able to pass the report on to him, but I received it myself only about 10 minutes ago. As I have said, we do not have much confidence in the process, but equally there is little that we can do about it.

A second area of particular concern is that it appears that English fishermen have come off worst in this round. From the base numbers, it seems that Scottish fishermen have certainly fared better. I regret that I do not have the exact figures to hand, although I have tried to secure them. The reception given to the scheme in Northern Ireland suggests that those fishermen were rather happy with the terms they were offered. I suspect that they, too, fared rather better than the English. The same applies to the Welsh. Earlier I warned the Minister that I would ask a question about the differing national levels of quotas. I seek an assurance that fishermen in England have not come off worse than their counterparts elsewhere in the kingdom.

Perhaps I may join the noble Lord, Lord Greaves, in expressing concern about the time-scale for decommissioning and getting rid of fishing boats. The Minister will know that the price of scrap metal is extremely low. To complete all the tasks by 27th February 2002 appears very demanding. I, too, ask the Minister to consider whether any flexibility could be allowed as regards that part of the scheme.

Lastly, I should say that this morning I was interviewed by Radio Cornwall. The interviewer told me that a group of local tunny fishermen simply did not know what to do. They had not received adequate responses to questions they had put to department officials. They did not know whether to keep their ships and apply for the licences—which I understand from a MAFF release dated 19th March 2001 are now

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being given out again—or to apply for grants to join this decommissioning scheme. I look forward to the Minister's response.

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