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Lord Pendry: My Lords, I congratulate all noble Lords on their contributions to this worthwhile debate. Because of the time, I will not have an opportunity to congratulate each and every one. I thank my noble friend Lord Evans for steering me to speak from a microphone. I have always spoken from that place and I have wondered often why people had not picked up my pearls of wisdom. So, from now on, noble Lords will have a boring time listening to my speeches.

I thought that my good friend, the noble Lord, Lord Glentoran, was rather negative and disappointed me somewhat with the tone of his speech, but I agree with him on the selling off of playing fields. I must say that I am a bit guilty because I wrote the part of Labour's manifesto that said "You sold off 5,000 and we wouldn't do anything of the kind". As the noble Lord, Lord Carter, made clear, it is not quite as simple as that. Under-used playing fields have been replaced by well-used playing fields. We now see youngsters playing sport, often under floodlights, where they would not have been able to on normal pitches. I got the balance wrong when I wrote that, and I apologise to everyone who believed every word I said on that occasion—with or without a microphone. However, I would like the Sports Council to be more transparent about where we are at on that issue, because it is very important.

I welcome my noble friend Lord Giddens to the Football Foundation. He referred to the lack of women's and girls' participation in sport, but he will find that there is a success story at the foundation. The fastest-growing sport in the country is women's football. Perhaps my noble friend will be able to contribute to that at the foundation.

Irrespective of party, in this House there is a great love of sport. I thank the Minister for his wind-up speech. With that, I beg leave to withdraw the Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
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Fishery Limits (United Kingdom) Bill [HL]

4.16 pm

Lady Saltoun of Abernethy: My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time.

Looking round this not very crowded and soon to be probably rather empty Chamber, the effect of moving debate day to Thursday becomes very obvious. Last business on a Thursday is about the worst slot it is possible to have, but it was the earliest that I could get. However, I am not dismayed.

I introduced this Bill for the first time in this House in November 2003. At Second Reading on 17 December, six noble Lords spoke in support, only one of whom is here today; and three against, only one of whom is here today. It was passed unamended in January 2004, after which it languished, forgotten, in another place.

For 62 years I lived two miles from Fraserburgh, once one of the biggest and most prosperous fishing ports in the country, founded more than 400 years ago by my ancestor. The prosperity of Fraserburgh is very dear to my heart. I have witnessed with sorrow the decline of the fishing industry on which it depends.

The common fisheries policy, after years of failure to achieve sustainable management of European fisheries, was due for substantial overhaul by December 2002. A promising package of proposals, adopted by the Commission in May 2002, was wrecked by decisions taken by the Council in December 2002 as a result of pressure from certain interested member states.

For many years, cod and hake stocks have been falling to dangerously low levels. The measures agreed by the Council to protect them have been totally inadequate. There was little reason to suppose that the story would be any different in December 2003. It was not. Cod boats were still allowed 15 days a month and haddock and prawn quotas were increased to compensate.

In December 2004, following the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution's report, Turning the Tide, a little more was done, but not much. Days at sea for cod boats were reduced by one, except where they use 120mm or larger net mesh, as most of our boats do, for which they were not reduced.

Regional advisory councils, such as our North Sea one, were to be in place for all regions by June 2005. When he winds up, perhaps the Minister will tell us whether they are or not. From what I have been reading in the House of Commons committee report, The Future for UK Fishing, published in March, I think that they are not. But over the years it has been the same old story of too little too late. Not much has changed in the past 18 months.

What I found particularly unsatisfactory were the words of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation on the subject of the 2004 negotiations with the European Commission:

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The whole concept of having to save the face of the Commission being a consideration in negotiations of such importance, both to our fisheries and to the future of cod stocks, is to me just one more excellent reason for getting rid of the Commission and running our own fisheries.

Total allowable catches, which are still with us, are a very inefficient method of controlling the quantity of fish caught so far as conservation is concerned. They lead to the wicked practice of discarding; that is, throwing overboard to die fish caught over and above the permitted quota and, worse than that, young, undersized fish which are unmarketable and should not be caught at all, but left in the sea to grow to maturity. The Dutch and French boats are far worse culprits than ours. Even though the discarded fish do not necessarily go to waste since they will be eaten by the sea's scavengers, such as cod at the best and predatory birds such as skuas at the worst, it is no way to conserve fish stocks. But what I do not see is how discarding can be stopped as long as we have the TAC and quota system. I do not think it can, and the Commons committee in its report to which I referred earlier appears, on pages 34 and 35, to agree.

Most important of all in the long term so far as effort reduction is concerned, and more effective than days-at-sea limitation, is the decommissioning of a proportion of the existing European fishing fleet. About 60 per cent of the Scottish fleet has already been decommissioned, but so far such decommissioning as has been done by the rest of the European Union fleet has been largely negated by the building and licensing of new, bigger and better boats with the help of EU grants. That has got to stop, but I do not believe that the common fisheries policy will ever stop it, and therefore I think it essential that we take our fisheries out of the CFP.

Moreover, since one of the recommendations made in the report, Turning the Tide, on the impact of fisheries on the marine environment is that 30 per cent of the fishing grounds in British waters should be closed to all commercial fishing, although I do not know for how long, I think the time has come to preserve the remaining grounds to our own UK, and particularly Scottish, fishermen who mostly do not want to fish in the Bay of Biscay, the Atlantic or the Mediterranean, which are the traditional fishing grounds of the French and Spanish boats. The common fisheries policy has never been of any benefit to this country. Joining it was the price we paid to join the European Union. It has not been worth it. Sometimes I wonder whether joining the European Union has been worth it, and I am not alone.

At the end of the day we in this country have a far greater interest in the sound management of our fish stocks than do other member states which fish our waters, and are anxious to continue doing so because 70 per cent of the European Union fish stocks are in our waters. It is the living of our fishermen, and that of their children and grandchildren, which is at stake. As the Cod Crusaders, a pressure group formed by two wives of Fraserburgh fishermen, have said:

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If the decision about who fished our waters was ours alone, our fishermen would fare much better. That is the reason for this Bill.

Clause 1 gives the Secretary of State power by affirmative order to withdraw from the common fisheries policy on such a date as he shall determine, regardless of the provisions of the European Communities Act 1972.

Clause 2 amends the Fishery Limits Act 1976 so that foreign fishing boats not registered in a country with a fisheries agreement with the United Kingdom would be forbidden to enter United Kingdom fisheries limits. Member countries of the European Union are specifically forbidden to fish within fishery limits unless their respective countries are designated access under the 1976 Act. No country would be so designated unless both reciprocal rights to fish in their waters are granted to UK fishing boats, and they observe the same or more stringent conservation measures as those applied within British fishery limits.

Provision is also made in this clause for a licensing regime for fishing boats within British fishery limits; for penalties for unlicensed fishing; for the landing in the UK, Isle of Man or the Channel Islands of fish caught within British waters, or for their being reported to Ministers and available for inspection if landed elsewhere; for the conduct of relations with the Faeroe Islands, Iceland, Ireland and Norway with regard to fisheries; for the use of statutory instruments relating to the fisheries regime; and for the taking of the devolution of powers into account.

Clause 3 makes financial provision for any expenditure of the Secretary of State consequent upon the Act. Clause 4 concerns the citation, extent and commencement date. The Bill will extend to the whole of the United Kingdom.

This is an enabling Bill. It does not take the United Kingdom out of the common fisheries policy. It merely enables the Secretary of State to make an order to do so—an order that will require the approval of both Houses of Parliament. What I hope the Bill will do is to send a very clear signal to the Council of Ministers and the Commission that people in this country are getting very fed up. By so doing, it will give the Minister responsible for negotiations with the Council a stronger hand to play.

Our Ministers try very hard, but they are agriculture Ministers and even if any of them know anything about agriculture, that does not necessarily mean that they know about fishing. Any help or ammunition that we can give them we should give unstintingly. I commend the Bill to the House.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a second time.—(Lady Saltoun of Abernethy.)
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4.28 pm

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