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Does the Minister know what marine biological resources do not come under the common fisheries policy? Is it oil or something else? He will be aware that when an amendment on this topic was discussed recently in the other place, MPs who know the fishing industry—Members of all parties—expressed dismay at this allocation of competences. They all know that, at a time when it has been found in most countries that the success of the fishing industry is highly dependent on having reasonably local control, our Government have been prepared to sign a treaty which amounts to a power grab by the European Union of the management for all time of our considerable marine resources.

Anyone would think that the UK would be in a very strong position when it comes to discussing fishing. Within the EU, some 70 per cent of fish landed come from within our 200-mile fisheries limits, although only 12 per cent are landed by British boats. The Minister will be aware of the importance of fishing to the Scottish economy. I believe that 65 per cent of fish landed come ashore in Scotland. Under the devolution settlement, Scotland administers the area of sea from Scotland out to the six-mile limit, but it is the control of the highly productive area between six miles and 12 miles that raises most concern and is the responsibility of Defra. Unless the UK is prepared to take a very strong stand on the issues in this area, one can see why the Scottish Executive will be demanding to take the prime negotiating responsibility in any future negotiations on the CFP. Even the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries voted against the proposal in the treaty. The committee stated that,

All those in the industry who are trying to follow any programme of conservation or management around our coasts can feel only totally frustrated. The implementation of the clauses in this treaty will not

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help one bit. Fishing is bound to be an area of great interest and importance regarding marine biological resources, but there are many other areas, of course. What effects will these powers have on the Government’s much vaunted marine Bill? It really looks as if all the questions of special protection areas and marine reserves will be dealt with at the say-so of Brussels. There will be spillover into permits for the abstraction of minerals. It looks as if, unless some other directive intervenes, the only areas on which we will have sole competence are the quality of the water and, possibly, leaving minerals undisturbed.

What will the standing of the six regional advisory committees for fishing be? They have recently been set up and have been seen as a reasonable step towards resolving some of these issues on the waters around England.

The main part of the common fisheries policy that has destroyed any credibility in its efforts at conservation has been the total allowable catch regime and the inevitable consequence of discards. The latest EU publication on this topic gives figures of the discards of flat fish in certain areas by beam trawlers at an estimated 70 per cent by weight and 80 per cent by number. Overall, it is an estimate of five tonnes of fish discarded for every tonne landed. Where can one see conservation in that? Even then, the EU has to admit that its knowledge of discards in some areas is poor, let alone the lack of accurate information on the catches of foreign vessels within the six-mile to 12-mile area. No wonder the fishermen out at sea all the time reckon that they have a much more realistic estimate of the status of the stocks than that obtained from the official statistics.

There is some comfort for us in the determination of the present Commissioner for the CFP that, by the end of his term of office in 2010, there should be a new regime on discards for all countries. However, the record so far does not give us grounds for great optimism. Can the Minister say if and when the UK reckons to be able to submit its proposals for meeting this deadline?

A properly managed and sustainable fishery is in the interests of all fishermen, and the fact that Britain should argue that it should manage its own fisheries does not mean that all the fishermen would have to be British. The only way that properly managed fisheries could be ensured would be to remove our waters from exclusive EU competence, as the amendment proposes. The only other solution would be an insistence on having the same powers that we have for six miles extended uniformly to 12 miles in the next EU derogation. But I think that we would have to wait an awfully long time before we could expect that concession. I beg to move.

6.45 pm

Lord Teverson: I was somewhat bewildered at the speech of the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose. The treaty states that the EU should have competence over marine biological resources and shared competences over everything else to do with the CFP and the common agricultural policy. That seems pretty straightforward. Biological resources clearly do not

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include oil, minerals, water, wave power, energy and all other issues in that area. We on these Benches would support the status quo. I was for five years on the European Parliament’s fisheries committee, which it was good of him to mention. We were very clear about these issues of where the current treaties and practice actually stood.

It is absolutely right that the common fisheries policy does not work. That issue is not one of biological resources. The Conservative Government in 1973 overwhelmingly handed a huge proportion of their allocation of channel stocks to the French and the Belgians. During their most recent period of government the Conservatives made no effort whatever to change the common fisheries policy, much to the dismay of other colleagues of mine in the European Parliament. I am delighted that the Conservatives are now repentant and that they have changed their minds on that policy—and that we might have from their Front Bench an apology for the misallocation that started back in the 1970s.

Yes, the common fisheries policy needs to be radically changed and needs to become a regionally managed policy that involves not one member state and its national territorial waters, but nation states around natural fish stock areas. It is clear that renationalisation of the seas does not work. We have marine biological resources—mainly, but not exclusively, fish—that strangely do not have passports, despite e-borders programmes. They go from one national territory, sea or EEZ to another without any hindrance whatever. We can control our fish stocks as tightly as we might wish to nationally, but when the fish cross a boundary, another member state can take those fish stocks. That is why regional management around areas such as the channel, the North Sea and the Irish Sea is the basis on which the common fisheries policy should change, not the principle of a common biological resource.

One of the things clear to me in terms of my fisheries work was that the states and regimes particularly successful at fisheries included New Zealand and Iceland, which had exclusive control and sovereignty over a continental shelf. That is not physically possible in the countries of the European Union, but we can get somewhere towards that if we have—as we have had since we joined the European Economic Community in 1973—at least a basis on which we can change the common fisheries policy to something far more satisfactory. To move it back to a sort of exclusively national regime would be a disaster for the fishing industry generally. I absolutely agree that we need to keep control of coastal waters and I am sure that that derogation will be renewed in the future, as it has been in the past. It is in the interests of all member states to do that.

Therefore, from these Benches we see no problem with the status quo as it is described now, but I absolutely welcome the Conservative Party’s determination to change fundamentally the common fisheries policy. It is a pity that they never lifted a finger to do so in their last Administration.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I would like to intervene briefly, particularly following the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, who seemed to say,

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“Yes, the common fisheries policy is not working at all but we have to retain it”. That seems a rather odd position to be in.

I remember being on the Environment and Agriculture Sub-Committee, Sub-Committee D. We studied the common fisheries policy on several occasions. I remember members of the committee and the Opposition making passionate speeches about how dreadful the policy was. We had evidence from fishermen whose livelihoods were being taken away from them by the provisions of the common fisheries policy. I think that everyone agreed about it then, as they seem to now. The noble Duke who moved the amendment made that clear.

I was shocked to hear that discards seem to have gone up rather than down during the intervening period. I think that the general discards are something like 60 per cent of the total catch and I cannot believe that the Government believe in retaining or pursuing a policy where 60 per cent of the catch is thrown overboard or, as was said, where 5 tonnes are discarded for every one sold. That seems to be an absolute monstrosity.

Yet this policy is supported. It is not working but we do not want to change it, according to the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, because it is all part of the treaties and we should not have given it away anyway. Of course, I agree that we certainly should not have given our fisheries away. We managed them perfectly well before we handed them over to the European Union and, of course, countries manage their fisheries individually far better than the Union is able to do. Examples include Norway, Iceland and even Namibia, as well as New Zealand and Canada. They can manage their fisheries in an exemplary—

Lord Teverson: That is easy to say, but I just point out that the Grand Banks off Newfoundland are still as barren as they ever were and Canada has had complete control over its territorial waters. Canada has suffered very much, and there has been exactly the same problem with Pacific salmon. I am sorry, but it does not work.

Lord Willoughby de Broke: I think that the noble Lord might have to take that up with the Canadians, because I believe that the situation is improving significantly, particularly since they kicked out the Spanish fishermen who were overfishing Canadian waters. The Spanish have a long history of fishing in those waters. The noble Lord should read Kipling’s Captains Courageous.

The fact is that the common fisheries policy simply is not working, yet we seem to go along with it as part of the deal. There are passionate speeches made about how deplorable it is and Ministers make speeches saying that they do not agree with it, but it carries on and there is no sign of improvement. The Fisheries Commissioner may wish that things will change, but they do not seem to. Therefore, the amendment is definitely worth pursuing. If something is not working, why continue banging your head against a brick wall? Why not try to change and return to where we were, in control of our own fisheries? When we had a proper fishing industry, we could easily police our territorial

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waters, so that would be no problem at all. I am not persuaded by the arguments that, because we have handed over our fishing industry to the European Union, we should go on doing so even though it is not working. Everyone admits that it is not working, so why do we not change and do something different?

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: I, too, support the amendment. Perhaps I may add an interesting statistic to the figures given by the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, who estimated that for every tonne landed some 5 tonnes are discarded. Another way of putting that is that some 30,000 articulated lorriesful of dead fish are thrown back into the sea every year. That is about the measure of the problem; indeed, it is the lowest estimate that we have from the European Union. Other estimates put the figure at 50,000 articulated lorries, quite enough fish to fill the Palace of Westminster and the whole of Whitehall several times over—and there must be a number of fishermen who have lost their livelihoods who might feel that that would be a more positive use of those premises.

The argument put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Teverson, that fish do not have passports and do not respect national boundaries does not work for the United Kingdom. I think that, the night before Edward Heath signed away our fisheries in a side agreement to the treaty of accession in 1972, we owned 70 per cent of the fish that swim all year round in European waters. Of course, that is why our dear partners-to-be in the European Union were so keen to get hold of them.

Again, Canada is not a good example. One has only to look at the Faroe Islands, Iceland and Norway to see how a fishery can be successfully managed by a democratic nation state on its own. The average take-home pay of a Faroe Islands fisherman has become £45,000 a year under the islands’ policy.

The noble Lord, Lord Teverson and, I have no doubt, the Minister will say that the common fisheries policy requires radical change. I believe that the words “and fisheries” were added at the end of the heading on the common agricultural policy chapter in the Maastricht treaty. If you read on through the treaty as it was before those words were added, you will see that everything refers to agriculture—merely “and fisheries” was added at Maastricht. Now, in the treaty of Lisbon, there is an attempt to adjust that by saying that any phrase that comes in that part of the treaty and sounds as though it is to do with agriculture also covers fisheries.

My question to the Minister is: why is it impossible to change this policy? Does it require unanimity? Can we not get a famous qualified majority vote? Who is it who opposes change to this scandalous policy? It must be one of the most destructive environmental policies on the planet, yet we are told that we need to be in the European Union to benefit from its environmental wisdom, weight in international negotiations and all the rest of it.

Is it true that the bureaucrats who designed this policy in the first place had never been to sea? They had probably never seen a ship, let alone a fish unless

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it was sitting on their plate. Is it true that they did not realise that when the nets come up from the sea most of the fish in them are already dead? The attempt to practise conservation by limiting the number of fish that are landed in port was the mistake that caused the discards.

I trust that that was a refreshingly brief intervention, but the question remains: why cannot this policy be changed? How is it possible that the nations of the European Union cannot come together and make discards illegal, as is done in these other countries, and simply eat or otherwise use all the fish that we have taken out of the sea and which are dead? Why do we have to throw them back?

7 pm

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I am certainly no expert on fishing, but during the time that I have been involved in the issue of Britain’s membership of the European Union—originally, the Common Market—I have received a lot of letters and representations from the fishing industry. Certainly those who go out and catch the fish have found their livelihoods reduced time and time again. The large fishing industry that we had before 1973 is now a shadow of its old self, yet we are apparently giving even more power to the European Union to decide not only where and what we should fish but to whom we should give the fish.

I understand—I may be wrong and I have no doubt that I will be corrected—that fish and other biological beings in the seas surrounding the EU are allocated to those who are not surrounded by sea. That seems to be an unfair distribution of a resource which this country used to own absolutely and which, generally speaking, it fished well. We had conservation measures in hand and I think that they were largely supported by the fishermen. That is why the industry maintained quite a large presence, whereas it now has a very small presence.

The European Union’s policies on fishing are, to put it mildly and kindly, rather crazy. As the noble Duke, the Duke of Montrose, pointed out, this country has 70 per cent of the good fishing in the European Union, yet we have seen foreign fishermen allocated quotas within British waters. They have been allowed to fish when our own fishermen have been told to stay at home. As I know, because I have been down there and talked to them, fishermen in the south-west are sitting in their houses having been banned from fishing. They see Spanish fishermen catch the fish that they used to be able to catch but can no longer because of some bureaucratic decision made in Brussels. What sort of policy is that? However, we now want to give the EU more power.

Since 1973, we have had no opportunity to protect our fishermen. We tried to protect them. We said to the Scottish fishermen, “You are being unfairly treated. The Spanish are coming in and are catching fish that you should be catching but are barred from doing so to a certain extent”. The House of Commons and this House enacted a Bill to protect the livings of Scottish fishermen, which was the right thing to do, but what happened? There was an appeal to the European Court, and the Court said, “You

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can’t do that; they are no longer your waters. They’re EU waters and the Spanish have every right to fish there”.

Lord Teverson: I am sorry; I shall not intervene again. The whole point is that that episode had nothing to do with the common fisheries policy; it was to do with the single market. It was a great problem at the time because the Conservative Government had allowed free trading and quotas to be sold abroad in a way that other EU countries did not. It was a single market issue, not a common fisheries policy issue.

Lord Pearson of Rannoch: Can that be right? If the foreign boats had not been in our waters because we were controlling those waters, and once we had satisfied our own valuable industry, we would have let out our fishing to foreign boats that could use the surplus. Therefore, without the common fisheries policy, we would not have been at square one in the first place.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: That is a very good point but the Scottish fishermen could not care less under what policy it happened. The fact is that the Government and Parliament tried to protect them from the depredations by the Spanish fishermen but were told by the European Court that they were acting illegally. Indeed, I think that they had to pay £200 million-worth of compensation to the Spanish fishermen—money that would have been better in Scottish rather than Spanish pockets, as these were, after all, fish that the Scottish fishermen had previously owned, so to speak.

To date, the whole policy has been one of squandermania of our fishing resources, undermining this country’s fishing industry and hurting the livelihoods of our very good fishermen, not only in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom. A lot of decent, good people burnt their boats because they were no longer required, as they could no longer fish in the waters where they had traditionally fished.

I am coming to an end but I should like to say something to the Conservative Front Bench. The Conservatives once had a very good idea. They said that the common fisheries policy was bad for our fishing industry and that when they got into government they would withdraw from it. Unfortunately, having said that they would withdraw from the policy, they then withdrew from that promise. If they examined the matter again and said, “In spite of this treaty and in spite of what the article says, if we get back to power”—they can get back to power if they have the right policies—“we are going to take back our fishing waters”, that would be very popular; I assure them that it would help the Conservatives a great deal in the south-west of England. I do not expect a reply tonight of course but I think that it is something on which the Conservatives should reflect.

Lord Bach: I thank noble Lords for their contributions to this debate. I remind the Committee that Amendment No. 30 refers to a provision in the treaty setting out the Union’s exclusive competence on the conservation of

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marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy, which reflects previous European Court of Justice case law.

The Lisbon treaty makes no changes to the competence of either member states or the Commission when it comes to fisheries. Community competence over fisheries is shared, except for conservation measures, where, as we have been told, it has been the exclusive competence of the Community since the UK’s treaty of accession came fully into force in 1979. The treaty merely codifies this.

Judgments of the European Court of Justice in the 1976 Kramer case and the 1979 case of the Commission v UK have established that the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy falls within the exclusive competence of the Community. The Lisbon treaty reflects that judgment by expressly stating that the conservation of marine biological resources under the common fisheries policy is within the exclusive competence of the European Union—in other words, it codifies existing case law. Fisheries will continue to be managed by the EU’s member states and the European Commission, working together. The Commission will continue to have the lead on conservation measures.

In moving his amendment, the noble Duke made it clear that he wanted to start a discussion on this issue. I do not think that he was for a moment proposing that his party favoured getting rid of the common fisheries policy—he will tell me if I am wrong—and although the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, tried to persuade him that it would be a successful electoral move, I wonder about that.


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