Backbench Business — [27th Allotted Day]
Andrew George (St Ives, Liberal Democrat)
It is a great pleasure to follow Dr Whitehead, who was absolutely right to conclude by emphasising the importance, if we are to move forward effectively, of reducing the need to discard any dead fish in the sea. We need a more sophisticated package of measures, rather than the same blunt response to the blunt instrument of quotas, which caused the problem in the first place.
I congratulate Zac Goldsmith, before he leaves the Chamber for a no doubt well-deserved comfort break, on having brought forward the issue and on his persistence in raising it. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of the motion.
I also pay warm tribute to my hon. Friend Sheryll Murray for having brought her great knowledge to bear and, in significantly difficult circumstances, raising the issue. She has warm support across the entire House for her contribution, and the House very much appreciates her widely acknowledged knowledge and expertise on the subject.
I was born and brought up in west Cornwall in my constituency. My family had a fishing boat, but my father was primarily a market gardener, so I have some experience of the issue, although far less than my hon. Friend. Many members of my family are engaged in the industry around the coast of my constituency, and I do my best to keep in contact with them in order to understand the pressures of the industry, but that certainly does not compare to my hon. Friend’s expertise.
A number of essential elements are required to move the issue forward and to make significant progress in addressing the concerns that have rightly been highlighted as a result not of only the Fish Fight campaign but of the many other campaigns that went before and highlighted precisely the same issues. I hope that the current process of reform, and the debate about the reform, of the common fisheries policy leading to 2013 will be more successful than the last.
We have inched our way forward, but the EU is like the United Nations when it comes to treaties: trying to reach an agreement across states requires tremendous diplomacy as well as the campaigning skill and zeal of many people in order to ensure that messages are properly understood, and that there are constructive proposals as well as attacks on and criticisms of the existing scheme’s failures.
In order to make such changes, there are a number of essential elements. First, we need to get right the management framework of the common fisheries policy, and it helps that we have moved the debate on in this Chamber from where it was five or six years ago, when my beloved coalition colleagues used to take the rather different view that we could unilaterally withdraw from the policy. The whole debate became a legal argument, which meant that we never had the right kind of environment—