Common Fisheries Policy
Mr John Hayes (South Holland and The Deepings, Conservative)
Andrew George knows what I mean. I shall talk later about our history together in fishing. He propped me up on a boat in the middle of the ocean when I was about to fall down. It could have caused a by-election, but he saved not only me but the people of South Holland and The Deepings from that experience. However, the point of Mr. Carmichael deserves serious treatment, and I will address it later.
As well as meeting fishermen from Fleetwood and the east coast, I have also had the privilege, due to the generosity of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, of meeting a group of Scottish fishermen's wives. Tragically, they tell a similar sorry tale. Let us look at the effect of a dramatic reduction in white fish takes in Scotland. Let us consider the dependence of the east coast of Scotland on fishing and the proportion of people in the local economy engaged and employed in the industry. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan has the chart, and I am familiar with it. Fishing is responsible for anything between 20 and 60 per cent. of the employment in some of those communities, either directly or indirectly. Then there is the knock-on effect on the local economy and communities. Imagine the effect on the retail or service sector if we dramatically reduce the fishing income to those communities. I was genuinely moved by those ladies and I will not let them down.
It is predicted that about 30,000 jobs will be at risk in that part of Scotland, and some 175 boats have already gone. How can we talk about a baseline? How can we talk about the contribution that we have already made or, as the hon. Member for Blackpool, North and Fleetwood pointed out, the commitment that fishermen have already made to this programme of balance, conservation and restructuring?
All those things are being done in the name of conservation, as we heard from the Minister again today. He is as consistent on that subject as he is on industrial fishing. In 2001, he said:
XThe CFP is not a great conspiracy . . . Its overwhelming priority is conservation."—[Hansard, Westminster Hall, 20 March 2001; Vol. 365, c. 51WH.]
By that measure, the common fisheries policy is palpably a complete and utter failure. Even if we could forget what it has done to the fishing industry and to the morale of those communities, we have only to think about what it has done to fish. Uniquely, the policy has damaged both fish and the people who catch them. There is something Orwellian about that.