I express my gratitude—I am sure that I speak for the whole House—for the opportunity to initiate a debate on the negotiations on fisheries with the European Economic Community. Under the agreement which my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has brought about, all sectors of the industry will continue to thrive. It is evidence of Her Majesty's Government's interest in this matter that not only is my right hon. and learned Friend present but also the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, who played a notable part in the negotiations. I know that, if he had not been on a fishing expedition to Moscow, the Minister of Agriculture would also have been here.
I do not wish to dwell on the history of this matter, except to say that, from the word "go", I and many other hon. Members, and the fishermen themselves, were totally opposed to the E.E.C. com- mon fisheries policy as originally formulated. What has become known as the "beach doctrine" was utterly unacceptable to the British industry and particular to the inshore section.
But it would be a mistake to assume that the fishery limits were the only part of the general policy with which we would take issue. For instance, the policy over the producer organisations might be suitable for the E.E.C., but certainly not for the British inshore industry, which is based on completely different premises.
I will not weary the House with details of the share fishermen and the way in which he operates, but the policy formulated by the E.E.C. would have been to the disadvantage of our fishermen and to large parts of the British coastline where the well-being of large parts of the population is dependent on the welfare of the inshore fishing industry.
When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer commenced negotiations in July, 1970, he asked the E.E.C. to postpone the implementation of the proposed common fisheries policy at least until the United Kingdom and the other applicant countries for membership could take part in discussions about it. Clearly, as has often been said by my right hon. and learned Friend, a policy suitable which was suitable for six countries—effectively, as far as we were concerned, three: France, Belgium and Western Germany—was totally unsuitable for 10 countries for many reasons. Possibly the major reason, which may often be overlooked in this connection, is that the Six are net importers of fish, whereas we and Norway are net exporters.
Regrettably the common fisheries policy was ratified in October of last year and implemented on 1st February this year. I say "regrettably" advisedly, because in my view the E.E.C. by doing what they did, made things that much more difficult for themselves and infinitely more difficult for my right hon. and learned Friend.
The question often asked is, "Why were the fisheries negotiations left until the end?" I do not pretend to know the intricacies of international negotiations at high level, but in the event I think that Her Majesty's Government were completely justified in playing this question long. My right hon. Friend has always said that he was determined to get an agreement which was fair to all. In my judgment, that is precisely what he has got with this agreement.
It is equally true that the negotiations which have taken place were genuine. If one is negotiating one must be prepared to give and take. Give and take must come from both sides, but in my view, though possibly it may not be diplomatic to say so in an international sense, Her Majesty's Government have given precious little and have retained an awful lot in the interests of British fishermen.
When one is applying to join a club, one does not normally anticipate altering the rules to suit oneself before actually becoming a member. One waits to become a member before trying to influence them. But the Government have obtained, in real terms, at least 98 per cent. of what I would have asked for.—[Interruption.]—The scoffing comes from the Opposition. We shall see as time goes by exactly what we have got. The fishing industry is thriving, and I suggest that it will go on thriving and will improve.
But it does not end there. As a full member of the club later we shall have an active and deliberate part to play in framing any rules which may be needed for the future.
In this day and age secret diplomacy is extremely difficult. If no news comes out of a conference, it seems that the mass media are inclined to manufacture it. If anything filters out it is so thankfully and greedily gobbled up that inevitably it leads to distortion. I suggest that it also leads to hasty judgments, ill-considered comments, and, to coin a phrase, a widespread inflation of balloons all over the country.
Frankly, we had a classic example over the weekend when rumour and counter-rumour flashed over the wires and ether because the noble Lord Boothby was reported initially as saying that he thought that the agreement was a sell out. Fortunately, to give him his due, he has, in effect, withdrawn that statement, and I am very glad about it.
The hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Donald Stewart), who is not present,
is reported in Monday's Press to have said:
The surrender to the rapacious E.E.C. terms is a callous betrayal of the interests and livelihood of Scottish inshore fishermen.
I trust that on reflection he will eat those words, because that statement shows his abysmal ignorance at the time of the agreement and the current position.
The right hon. Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey), questioning my right hon. and learned Friend on Monday, said that my right hon. and learned Friend had
capitulated to French intransigence.…."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 54.]
The right hon. Gentleman is hoist on his own marlin spike, because part of the agreement with the Six gives large stretches of the French coast around Brittany and Normandy a 12-mile limit. I do not think that such an area, which returns Gaullist M.P.s, would allow the French Government of the day, whether now or in 11 years' time, to go back on that. The French will want the agreement just as much as we, in all probability, shall want to retain our position at whatever time the matter comes up for discussion.
There is no doubt that the British fishing industry has been doing well. Over the first six months of this year productivity went up at the annual rate of £300 per man. That is a great achievement, and we want it to continue.
Seventy-three per cent. of all the Scottish landings of fish come from the inshore fleet. The fishing industry, not least the inshore section, is worth preserving, and I am persuaded that the agreement will preserve it. I accept the agreement without reservation.
I understand that negotiations are continuing on some details at official level, but I have little doubt now that what has been achieved basically in the alteration, for instance, of the marketing arrangements will be of great benefit to the remoter areas, in that the differential regional withdrawal prices will be not only acceptable but very helpful to the industry. The same can be said for alterations which are to be made to the producer organisation.
On the fisheries limits, we should naturally have been happier to see a uniform status quo throughout the United Kingdom, but what has been achieved is adequate for our needs. To have the 12-mile limit based on the headland-to-headland base lines of the existing six-mile limit is the basis on which we can and will work. For north and east of Scotland we have entirely the status quo —complete protection for, and continued exclusion of all foreign vessels from, the Minches and the Clyde, two areas vital to Scottish fishing. We also have the retention of control in every sense in the entire six- to 12-mile band around United Kingdom coasts. In certain places the historic rights will remain. We have the retention of complete control of conservation, a vital part of the policy.
That and much more makes up to a satisfactory agreement, and I am confident that when all the details of the agreement have been read, marked, learnt and inwardly digested, they will be accepted by the whole industry. There is no doubt that there is no cause for lack of confidence in the future by any section of the British fishing industry. The Government have shown clearly that they have the ability, will and desire to stand up and take care of our fishing industry at any stage. I understand that when my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland met the Fisheries Working Party for Scotland today in Edinburgh, the meeting was a great success. I understand that those who took part from the fishing industry side were much reassured, to say the least, and went away happy. I hope that my hon. Friend will be able to confirm that.
Not only did the representatives of the fishing industry in Scotland in general accept the agreement, but individuals expressed confidence in the future, saying that they could go ahead with their own investment plans because the industry's future was now assured.
I am glad to hear that. If nothing else does, what my hon. Friend has just said makes the debate worth while. There have been an awful lot of Jeremiahs about in recent days, not least among them the leader writer of the Aberdeen Press and Journal, who wrote, inter alia, on Tuesday:
… the fishers themselves will have to live under a suspended death sentence until their fate is decided in Brussels… The member
nations of the Six know this full well. They agreed to the continuation of 12-mile and 6-mile limits in the secure knowledge that quite soon they will be able to press for what they believe to be their rights, the opening of all Britain's fishing grounds to foreign trawlers.
Those examples I have quoted are either wilful misrepresentation or the said leader writer is so blinded by prejudice that he cannot or will not understand the agreement. I am satisfied that it is a very good agreement for the Scottish inshore industry and that a great deal has been achieved.
I should be grateful for confirmation of certain figures by my right hon. and learned Friend. I estimate that the whole of the Scottish catch by the inshore fleet in the 0–12 mile band amounted to roughly £16·6 million in value and 1·2 million cwt. last year. I understand also that on the west coast of Scotland, from Cape Wrath to Solway, during the same period the catch was £600,000 and 100,000 cwt. This was for the whole of the coastline, irrespective of limits. Is it the case that in the six to 12-mile band in the same area the weight and value were both about 5 per cent. in the same period? It is true that our fishermen will continue to be able to fish in these same grounds and therefore in catching power we are losing nothing in that area.
I turn to a question which has given rise to most problems, the review of the whole position by the end of 1982. I would have had great difficulty in supporting the Government if my right hon. and learned Friend had returned to the House on Monday with a permanent arrangement, without any flexibility. As is the case with everything today, fishing is changing, methods of catch change, as do types of gear. The research taking place will produce new types of gear and so on. Who can say where the fish will be in 11 years time? They do not know where the white lines laying down the limits are. Who can say what changes there may be in the types and species of fish that will be eaten? Public tastes change. We may wish to push our limits out. Is it not a fact that fishermen and their families would expect to benefit from the Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund of the E.E.C. which will be the means by which the fishing industry will be aided?
What expert can say that changes are not necessary in the methods of support? There are all sorts of reasons why I would reject permanency and opt for the genuine open-ended review my right hon. and learned Friend has accepted.
When the negotiations on the remaining details have been completed will the Government consider publishing a White Paper or some such document? Much of the misunderstandings inside and outside the industry which have arisen and could arise again could have been resolved if this had been done. I hope the Government will give urgent consideration to this. The whole tenor of this agreement smacks of firmness. With the continued support of this Government there is a good future for the industry under this agreement, and I trust that I may be allowed to commend it to the House.
I will not follow the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) in his geophysical musings. In forecasting 10 years ahead I felt that he would tell us that the North Sea would turn into a Zuider Zee and that we would lose the use of it. My political nose smells something cooking here this evening. What a galaxy of talent on the Government Front Bench! It is very nice to see the Chancellor of the Duchy here, but look at those Ministers flanking him. They are in support, but maybe they are also here to hear something which we have so far not been vouchsafed. The Patronage Secretary is not quite asleep. He, too, seems to be musing about what might happen.
I am glad to see the Chancellor. He must mean business, coming to the House at this time of night. We will await his words of wisdom. Let us hope he says something firm and definite about the end of the 10-year period and what powers he has. I want to tell him that what he has told us over the last few months does not quite coincide with what has been said for Her Majesty's Government in another place. I should like him to line these things up. Earlier today I questioned the Leader of the House about E.E.C. fishing limits and received a dusty answer so I hope the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be more forthcoming and yield- ing tonight. He is not supposed to be a yielding man, but a hard man, who has been bargaining so toughly with our continental cousins.
I want to confine my speech to the question of the 10-year transitional period and what is to happen afterwards. The hon. Member for Banff talked about not going back, whatever that might mean. I do not want to go back; I want to go forward. I want to ensure that we have all the locks, bolts and bars necessary when we get to 1982 or 1983 so that the continentals, whether Gaullists or not, will not be able to take us backward.
It is more than scandalous, it is iniquitous, that we are not to have a full-dress debate before the end of term, before the Government sign the Treaty of Accession. There is no equity in this situation. Fisheries is a unique issue. The right hon. and learned Gentleman knows as well as I do that the negotiations have gone on for so long and he has finalised them so late that we are now faced with a fait accompli. This matter should be debated before the Treaty is signed. Not to debate it is a complete negation of democracy. Up to now all we have had is spasmodic and desultory exchanges at Question Time with a fusillade of answers from the right hon. and learned Gentleman.
Although the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is present, for which we are grateful, to have this debate at this time and in these circumstances is unworthy of the occasion and is indicative of the history of the negotiations. The right hon. and learned Gentleman and the Government are hell-bent on taking Britain into the E.E.C. Hence there is little purpose in my niggling, as the hon. Member for Banff did, about this or that part of the coastline, this size of net, that type of boat, this kind of fish or that boat sailing under a certain flag coming to catch the fish. To do that would be stupid.
I ask the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell us why the area from the North-West of Scotland to the Humber, including the 20 miles from the mouth of the Coquet, which was my birthplace, to north of the Tweed, is picked out for fishing up the continentals between the six- and 12-mile limit. Does he not know of the seaport called Seahouses and that the men there must get a living and that the outer belt should not be fished out? Perhaps he will say, as he has said before, that there are only seals there, basking on Holy Island near Lindisfarne Abbey, and no fish. We shall see.
I come to my main point. The right hon. and learned Gentleman can argue with the fishermen of Filey or St. Ives about whether he has 95 or 98 per cent. of value of national catch still within the safeguards. I want to ask questions about what has been said in the other place. Will the Minister have a veto in 1983 over any possible efforts that the French may make to change conditions back? There is a curious discrepancy between the statements of the Minister of State, Scottish Office in the other place and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in this Chamber. Their official statements last Monday were identical, but after questioning by my noble Friend Lord Hoy, whose knowledge about these matters we all know, about having given up a formal automatic right of veto, Baroness Tweedsmuir said that
… if unanimity cannot be reached, then each country has the right of veto if they have declared a particular question to be of vital national interest."—[OFFICIAL REPORT: House of Lords, 14th December, 1971; Vol. 326, c. 1012.]
This was said on behalf of the Government in the other place. Again, after questioning by Lord Chalfont about the possibility of a change to a comprehensive majority vote in the Council of Ministers, the noble Lady was equally emphatic:
There is no question at the moment of any change …".
The noble Lady, speaking on behalf of the Government, chided Lord Chalfont with forgetting that the Prime Minister, after meeting President Pompidou, had especially stated that the two leaders had firmly agreed
… that subjects which were of vital national interest would be subject to the unanimity rule.
The noble Lady referred the noble Lord to the statement by the Prime Minister in this House on 24th May last. The Earl of Swinton was not convinced and asked:
Does that mean that we should have the right of veto if we objected?".
The noble Lady replied:
Yes, my Lords."—[OFFIcIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th December, 1971; Vol. 326, c. 1008.]
Lord Boothby, that ineffable figure who judges what is good or not so good in fishing. said he had asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster the same question he had asked Lady Tweedsmuir; whether the Government considered the new arrangements could never be changed without our consent, and he said:
She said, 'Yes', and he said, 'Yes', and that satisfied me."—[OFFIcIAL REPORT, House of Lords, 14th December 1971, Vol. 326, c. 1010.]
This is being stated on behalf of the Government in the other place, but we have not had it stated down below here. Lord Hoy asked Lady Tweedsmuir whether the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster was in agreement with her, and said that, if that was so, it would not be difficult for her to request him to repeat the statement here. Lord Hoy asked the noble Lady to arrange this. I wonder whether this has been done. If the Minister in the other place has conferred with the Chancellor of the Duchy, have they got their statements into line? Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman, then, prepared to tell us in this Chamber this evening exactly the same thing as the noble Lady said on behalf of the Government? If he does, we shall be delighted. We shall tell him he has come clean, not only with the noble Lady but with some 20,000 fishermen about our coasts.
I would start off my very brief intervention by saying that I believe that my right hon. and learned Friend has made a very good agreement indeed in Brussels. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker), I thought, when the Common Market countries came to an agreement and ratified it during the negotiations between those countries, that that was one of the most unfortunate incidents at that time, but I believe that the negotiations just concluded, which give our fishermen along much of our coastline, particularly in the South-West and in the north, protection up to the 12-mile limit, except in some areas where, traditionally, fishermen of other countries have fished, have produced one of the best results which could have been expected.
I played a small part in the original negotiations bringing out the fishing limits in 1964 to the 6-mile and 12-mile bands, and I well remember how difficult it was to reach agreement on those bands. For my right hon. and learned Friend now to be able to conclude an agreement with the Six to continue for a 10-year transition period the 12-mile exclusive fishing band round the most important part of our coast is a feat on which he and the Government should be congratulated.
The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson) has doubts about what will happen in 1982 and—in my right hon. and learned Friend's words—continuing agreement after that time, when the Commission has done its review and presented to the Council of Ministers its views on the state of the industry and the social consequences of any changes which might have to be made.
As I understand it, at that moment, after the 10-year transition period has passed, we shall revert to the position as negotiated and ratified within the Common Market during the last 18 months. But, as my right hon. and learned Friend pointed out, and as was said in the other place—the hon. Gentleman referred to it—the agreement between my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister and the President of France whereby any vital national interest will continue to be subject to the unanimity rule will be of particular relevance here.
It is not only this country which will have an interest in seeing that the existing conditions are continued should the report show that the fishing industry needs them and the social consequences of changes would be such that they should be continued. Therefore, a right of veto will obtain for any proposal which affected the national interests of any country. The House should realise that a vital national interest will not arise in the case of other countries wanting to come up to our beaches, if I may so put it. That would not be a vital national interest for another country. But it would be a vital national interest for us if, as I believe might happen, it could be shown that it would be severely detrimental to our inshore fishermen, both commercially and socially, if that took place.
The hon. Gentleman is giving his personal answer to my question. I would rather have it from the Minister in a few minutes, but I am glad to have one slice—never mind the loaf. He is saying definitely that it is his interpretation that we have a veto in this matter at the end of the 10 years. Is that right?
This is my personal view. I believe that, after the 10-year period is up, and the Commission has put forward its view in 1982 on what the conditions of the industry are and what the effects would be if there were a proposition by another country that it wished to fish up to our beaches, we would be in a position to say, "No; it is our vital national interest", in the light of the report by then prepared by the Commission on the instructions of the Council of Ministers for the Council of Ministers.
For that reason, I believe that what my right hon. and learned Friend has negotiated is perfectly acceptable. What I find so difficult to accept is that, whenever any kind of negotiation results in agreement for a review at the end of a certain period—three or four years on the question of sugar, for instance, or 10 years for fishing—hon. and right hon. Members opposite immediately assume that Ministers and others in the Common Market countries will do their utmost, will lie and cheat and do their damndest, to do this country down and will not behave as honourable men.
This I find intolerable, and I will not accept it. I have a great deal of contact with Europeans who are in positions of honour and trust, and I find them just as honourable as right hon. Gentlemen opposite and on my own Front Bench. As my right hon. and learned Friend said on Monday when he made his statement, there never has been a decision during the past years when a vital interest of any country has not been safeguarded by the negotiations on the Council of Ministers. I am content to leave it at that.
The culmination of the long series of negotiations by my right hon. and learned Friend is something he can be pleased, and indeed proud of. As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff has said, the inshore fishing industry is in a prosperous state, and I believe it will continue to prosper. As my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary for Scotland has said, the agreement can give to the fishing industry the green light to go ahead with investment plans in the confidence that it will enjoy increased protection now and a prosperous future.
I am glad of this opportunity to intervene briefly in this debate, since I have the honour to represent a maritime county. As the right hon. Member for Wolver-hampton, South-West (Mr. Powell) said in the House two days ago, the matter we are now discussing almost pales into insignificance compared with certain nefarious acts of the Government in relation to the E.E.C. negotiations. For once in my lifetime, I agree with the right hon. Gentleman. The fisheries negotiations show the Government in an extremely unfavourable light.
The starting point in considering the essence of this question is to be found in an event which occurred in the summer of 1970. That is when the Common Market countries decided that they would shape a common fishing policy. Anyone who is acquainted with the neurosis of uniformity which from time to time attacks the Europhiles will well understand why they found it necessary to reduce fishing regulations to a common system. Of course, there is reference to such matters in Article 38 of the Treaty of Rome, which provides for extending the common agricultural policy to all matters listed in Annexe II. These include fish, crustaceans and molluscs.
Particularly significant in this desire for uniformity is the timing of it, for it was brought forward exactly one day before the United Kingdom was due to make its opening, statement on its application in 1970 for membership of the E.E.C. I say to hon. Gentlemen opposite, who have tried to pretend that this is all sweetly innocent and the product of the European good will with which we shall live for many decades to come, that there is something utterly Machiavellian and unprincipled about the timing of that epoch-making move by the European partners.
I contend that that was an act of tyranny and nonsense. It was an act of tyranny because in acting in such a way they dealt in a contemptuous way with the four applicants for membership, knowing full well—as happened in the event—that when they were able to frame a common fishing policy they would be presenting these new members with an inescapable fait accompli.
It was an act of nonsense for two reasons, because two monumental factors are involved. First, the 12-mile limit since 1964, since the Fishery Limits Act of that year for which the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) was largely responsible, has constituted a strong and sure shield for British fishermen.
Let us look at the figures. Between 1964 and 1971 the value of inshore catches has almost doubled. The Scottish figures of catches shown an increase of slightly over 100 per cent. The figures overall show catches worth £17 million in 1964 and over £31 million in 1970. It is a pious and unfounded hope for the hon. Member for Derbyshire, West to say that there is no reason now that this prosperity should not develop from year to year. If the existence of the 12-mile limit for 6½ years was responsible for this prosperity, is there not every reason to believe that, if the basic factor is interfered with, the process of development will be reversed?
I am sure the hon. Gentleman, for greater accuracy, will accept the fact that during the 1964 negotiations we allowed large areas where the traditional fishermen from France and Belgium and other countries were allowed to fish up to the 6-mile limit. He will realise that we shall still be able to control the conservation of fish up to the 12 miles in the interim and afterwards.
I accept that. The statement by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster two days ago said 95 per cent. of the catches had been safeguarded, and the impression he gave to the House—I think he did so deliberately—was that the areas which are exclusively the prerogative of British fishermen would remain so for that 10-year period. So although the foreign fishermen are allowed over a wide mileage of the 12-mile limit, they did not happen to be the most important fishing areas referred to in the Minister's statement. There is no gainsaying that the 1964 Act has been of tremendous benefit to British fishermen. It is the protection of this Act that is now being bartered away.
The second monumental factor lies in the fact that once the four applicant countries have joined the Community it means the whole pattern of supply and demand for fish is completely changed. The market will change from being a net importer to being a net exporter of fish. What sort of people are they who are willing to bring about such changes knowing that they will have a fundamental effect on the lives and industries of the four applicant countries, and yet give them no opportunity whatever, by way of negotiation or even of consultation, to put their own views and to protect their own interests in a matter that is so fundamental to the future of each of them?
What it means in consequence of that common fisheries policy is that since 1st February this year it is possible for the countries of the Six to fish right up to the beaches of each other's coastal waters.
There is an escape clause in that the 3-mile limit is possible in most exceptional circumstances and that it was not to be for more than five years at the maximum. So whereas we now have an absolute guarantee, post-1982 we will be entirely at the mercy of the goodwill of our majority partners in the E.E.C.
The Conservatives are entitled to form their view as to the generosity, integrity and magnanimity of our partners. It may be that their view is not universally shared in the House. But they must admit that the legal guarantee disappears—that is the long and short of the whole matter. Up to a few days ago, it seems to me as one who has kept fairly close contact with this issue, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has, over the past few months, sedulously sought to give the impression that he stood for an absolute guarantee post-1982. I quote from the Financial Times of 10th November, 1971:
Mr. Geoffrey Rippon, the U.K.'s chief negotiator, took much the same line,…
much the same line as Norway and Ireland, that is—
… although he adopted a milder tone than the Irish and Norwegian Ministers. He insisted nonetheless that there must be continuing protection even after the end of any initial period in which national limits could be maintained.
He never came to this House and said that the protection he had in mind was something fortuitous which was entirely within the gift of the dominant and majority interests in Europe.
When he referred to protection he referred to it in the context of lawful guarantees, matters where we would not be at the mercy of anybody nor have to seek the grace and favour of another member of the E.E.C. All that has now been completely changed.
I am not saying that the Minister went along to Brussels intending to cheat and be dishonest. But once the decision to enter the E.E.C. had been made, knowing full well that it had been made on the basis of the treaty itself, the Minister was in an impossible position. No member of this House would have thought for a moment that, with the by now relentless, inexorable necessity of Britain entering the E.E.C., as Conservatives see it, there is any question that the whole of that future should be jeopardised by any issue relating to fish. The 20,000 fishermen of Britain simply could not be allowed to frustrate the destiny of Britain in Europe, as the Europhilias see it.
The Chancellor was not the only person to make promises in this connection. Solemn promises have also been made quite recently by the Minister of Agriculture and the Secretary of State for Scotland. As far as I know the Secretary of State for Wales did not give us the benefit of any assurance in this matter. What was the attitude of those Ministers in Cabinet when they were told the result of the Brussels negotiations? How did they see their integrity in this context? Did they think that their honour was in any way compromised or that their honesty might be impugned? They had given a solemn undertaking not only to British fishermen but to the British public at large. That undertaking cannot possibly be honoured properly now. What are they going to do as men of honour?
It is not just a matter of the consistency of Government Ministers. It is a matter of acute loss and justifiable anxiety for the fishermen of the United Kingdom. These are not matters which can be brushed aside lightly, as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster did when he was questioned two days ago following his statement in the House. The hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn
Roberts) asked what the position was with regard to Cardigan Bay: why was it that, with so many fishing areas in Britain protected by the 12-mile limit for this temporary period of 10 years, for such it is, no such benefit was bestowed on Cardigan Bay? The right hon. and learned Gentleman replied:
I referred particularly to the need for protection in areas which are not already adequately covered by the base lines or in which there was very little fishing between six and 12 miles. Cardigan Bay is totally protected by the existing base lines."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 58.]
When I heard that, I thought that the base lines of Cardigan Bay had been drawn rather differently from the base lines affecting the coastline of the west of the United Kingdom. Then I went to the Library and saw the excellent map provided by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I found nothing to distinguish the base lines in Cardigan Bay from those in any of the other coastal areas of the United Kingdom. Of course, these six and 12-mile limits do not closely follow as a parallel every nook, bay, inlet and little headland. They have been broadly drawn around the British Isles.
One sees on that map that, whereas for example, the Western Isles are situated some 30 or 40 miles to the west of the Scottish mainland, the base line lies to the west of the Western Isles again. As a matter of common sense, if it was anything approximately to a closely parallel line drawn on that coast, it would run between the Western Isles and the Scottish mainland. Again I ask what was the purport of the right hon. and learned Gentleman's answer? Did he deceive himself, or did he use it as a subterfuge and an artifice in order to avoid the proper and pertinent question asked by the hon. Member for Conway?
This is a situation where the Government are acting with a ruthless disregard for the position of British fishermen. Although in my constituency the employment afforded is employment to some dozens of people, in a situation such as that which exists in the county, every job must be regarded as a treasure in itself. I do not exaggerate that in regard to the economic viability of many small communities. Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite are well acquainted with the employment situation in a number of small fishing communities which rely almost entirely upon such an industry.
I am sorry that the debate does not allow this scope, but I should welcome an opportunity soon to be able to deal in a more constructive manner with the question which is now opened up by these negotiations, which is to ask what special assistance can be and should be given to such areas as these. In Wales, we had a report on small fishing harbours and ports published by the Council for Wales some 15 years ago. It was never implemented. I believe that there is a growing need for the co-ordination of special assistance to these areas, perhaps along the lines of a body in Wales not dissimilar from the Highlands and Islands Development Board.
But what we are concerned with tonight is the significance of what happened at Brussels a few days ago. That event speaks a great deal by itself. It speaks about the calibre and the fibre of the men who represent us at Brussels. It speaks, too, of the ruthless arrogance of those who very soon will be our dominant partners when we are subsumed in Europe, and in whose hands the destiny of our people will ultimately lie.
The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) departed a long way from his usual standard of fairness. He was unfair. He was also misleading. He will find, on reflection, that he is out of step with his own fishermen and most fishermen around our coast. His was a most unhappy speech, and it was not up to his usual standard.
I welcome what my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy has achieved. I am happier about this decision than I am, perhaps, about other of his negotiating points. I would put it at the top of the list, with New Zealand second. The point about which I am still slightly concerned is sugar. But in the fisheries negotiations he has achieved what he set out to achieve. In the years to come it will be seen to be a major achievement.
I am slightly unhappy about the question of Norway, which has not been mentioned in the debate. I would have liked to have seen it settled. It may well be that Norway obtains even better terms, or does not enter the Community. It is a slightly worrying point. I hope that my right hon. and learned Friend will say a little more about it.
Many rather wild and inaccurate statements have been made on this subject by people who would now like to withdraw them. A reading of the newspapers a day or two ago showed how inaccurate they are. It is right that we should have taken a very firm stand on this and that fishermen should protest. It is right that fishermen should have come up from the South-West to protest. They were the only fishermen who gave up a weeks work and came in their trawlers to protest. In spite of all that is said in Wales, Scotland or anywhere else, it was the fishermen of Devonshire who felt so strongly about the matter that they came up and protested, as they have the right so to do. They did something practical; they demonstrated. No one else came to protest.
Looking at what has happened over the past two or three months, it is obvious that some people, including some Members of the House, do not understand what it is to negotiate and bargain. It seems extraordinary to me that they do not appear to realise what my right hon. and learned Friend has been doing. One cannot just walk into a room and say, "I want this and I want that". It has to be bargained for and negotiated. If they were honest, hon. Members opposite would admit that in their hearts they know that if it had been George Brown who had returned with these terms and this achievement they would have been the first to say how good an achievement it was. It is no use hon. Members opposite shaking their heads. They ought to have the courage to admit it.
To say, as some have—even the hon. Member for Cardigan—that it is a sell out is complete nonsense. It is not being truthful and honest. The hon. Member for Cardigan knows it in his heart; he is making a political point about it.
I believe that what my right hon. and learned Friend has achieved is a guarantee, because when we are in we shall be able to deal with these matters. The power of veto will also be available to us.
This is an emotional problem and I have been interested to note that apart from the fishermen, the people generally have shown genuine concern for our fishermen and fishing rights. It is clear that the nation as a whole feels strongly about these issues, and this has strengthened my right hon. and learned Friend's hand in these negotiations.
It is clear that, whatever we achieved, some people would not be satisfied because of a deep-rooted hatred of the Common Market and the idea of our joining it. All reason seems to go by the board when they discuss this subject. Hon. Gentlemen opposite should admit that my right hon. and learned Friend has achieved a considerable measure of success in the negotiations.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) was right to say that there could be advantage in having a 10-year period followed by a review. Things change and we do not know now what we will want in 10 years' time. We will want some boundaries or limits, but it may be more or less.
It seems that, by definition, the hon. Gentleman might be prepared to accept something less than we have now. He referred to the possibility of the figure being more or less, Would he accept less?
I did not say I wanted less. I said that at that time we might want something different, perhaps an extension, or other areas defined. As my hon. Friend the Member for Banff said, fish move and circumstances change. Indeed, we in the South-West have not seen many herrings for a long time. I therefore see considerable merit in what my right hon. and learned Friend has achieved, and the matter should be looked at carefully after the 10-year period.
I am certain that the fishermen of the South-West realise that they are protected for the next 10 years, and this will be of great benefit to them. We have seen the results of these limits with the growth of fishing. One thinks of the tremendous efforts at Brixham and the co-operative there. I am sure that the industry will go forward in the knowledge that it has this protection. The power of veto is important, but I hope my right hon. and learned Friend will confirm that, should the need arise, we will be able to exercise it in 10 years' time.
We should also not overlook the fact that aid for modernisation can be obtained from Community funds. Considering the contribution that we shall be making to the E.E.C., this will be welcomed and will be of benefit to our fishermen.
The fishing problem is not new; it has always been with us, particularly in the South-West. Certain disputed areas have always been regarded as private waters. This does not concern only the French, the Dutch or the Belgians, but the Cornish fishermen. Woe betide the Cornish fishermen if they come into Devon waters. I recall the fun and games we had some years ago off Lundy when shots were fired at a Cornish vessel —"Silent Waters"—which crept in and shot its pots in waters it did not normally fish. What a row there was then. There is no doubt that fishermen look on certain areas as their own private fishing grounds. I do not wish to alarm my right hon. and learned Friend too much, but the fishermen of the South-West have told me that whatever agreement he brought back they would have seen to it that foreign fishing vessels did not come into our waters. We have had evidence of this when they have run right across the trawls of the foreign boats.
I remember, too, an excellent three or four days I spent on the fishery protection vessel H.M.S. "Belton", when we had a considerable amount of interesting work to do. What amused me was that whenever we investigated any foreign boats they always protested their innocence, even though they were well inside territorial waters.
It is important that the fishery protection service should be strengthened. We have not enough of these boats in operation, and perhaps my right hon. and learned Friend will do something about it. Where the fish are, there the fishermen want to go, and if there has been a shortage of fish somewhere on the coasts of other countries the pressures are very great. The fishermen creep in and fish where the fish are.
It is no good the Opposition saying that what has been agreed at Brussels is not an achievement. It is a very real achievement, and in the years to come we shall see the results of that achievement.
I hope that the Government will not regard this present discussion as having pre-empted a full fisheries debate in the House before the Treaty of Accession is signed. On 13th December by right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, East (Mr. Healey) pressed very strongly for a debate. The House has a right not only to debate the subject but to vote on it before the signing of the Treaty of Accession. It is very important that we should have all the details and should know precisely what the agreement means, and how it will work. As it is, we have had different interpretations. Two hon. Members opposite said quite clearly that there will be a power of veto after the end of 1982, while some on this side argue that there will not be a veto.
Within the fishing community as a whole there has been widespread dismay at the agreement reached by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. Perhaps they do not know the full implications any more than we do, but it is odd that the noble Lord, Lord Boothby, who is very close to the fishing interests, should have been so condemnatory when he heard what the agreement contained. It took some discussion between him and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster before he would say that he felt a little happier about it. Without confidence, investment in the industry will suffer, to the industry's long-term detriment. If the limits problem is not solved, processing and retailing will suffer as much as catching.
I do not believe that the overall package for our entry of the E.E.C. is in this country's best interests. We who do not approve of this policy are therefore more critical of this agreement than other people, and consider it more searchingly. But this does not absolve the Minister from answering our questions.
The saddest thing is the priority which the Government have given to fishing. It was relegated to the rag-bag of items at the end of negotiations. This is not sinister: it just was not throught important enough to be in the forefront. But those who take the conspiratorial view of politics think that it was deliberately held until the end, first, because the negotiations on limits would be particularly difficult.
The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) has said a number of times that unless he was satisfied that the interests of the inshore fleet in his constituency were fully met he could not support his Government. If this agreement had been presented before the debate on the principle, he would have been in a very difficult position and would not have made the speech that he made tonight in which I detected some self-justification because, having voted for the principle, he now faces criticism in his locality.
On fishing limits more than anything else, the general public can see the effect of our entry of the E.E.C., whereas they do not understand so clearly talk about the rundown of the sterling balances or the free movement of capital. The conspiratorial view is that every effort has therefore been made to keep these details from them, because once it was known how far the essential interests had not been protected, all hell would break loose. The Chancellor of the Duchy has repeatedly said that it was important to get the right agreement. Definitions are important, because what is at stake is the well-being of those involved in processing as well as catching fish.
One constant question is, are the arrangements transitional or permanent? The Government have fallen between the two stools. It is odd that, while the right hon. and learned Gentleman maintains that this is not a transitional arrangement, two of his hon. Friends have tonight talked about "these transitional arrangements". They may be wrong, but the Minister can deal with this.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has often been open with the House on this matter, as he was on 1st December when he said:
We are not asking for anything which is necessarily permanent. However, it must be clear that when we have a review it must be a genuine review in which full regard will be paid, in the circumstances obtaining at the time, to the social, economic and conservation aspects of fishing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1971; Vol. 827, c. 454–5.]
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been absolutely clear and open with the House that he was not, on 1st December or at any time, seeking permanent arrangements. He could never ask for permanent arrangements, because they would be out of accord with the general principles which were established at the opening of the negotiations in 1970.
It is worth recalling in this context the opening statement by M. Pierre Harmel, Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the E.E.C. on 30th June, 1970. Defining the Community's position, he said:
We assume in principle that your states accept the treaties and their political objectives, all the decisions of every type which have been taken since the treaties came into force and the choices made in the fields of development.
Later, he said:
Under these conditions, the Community wishes, at the opening of the negotiations, to state a certain number of principles which it intends to apply:
1. The rule which must necessarily govern the negotiations is that the solution of any problems of adjustment which may arise must be sought in the establishment of transitional measures and not in changes in the existing rules.
Where I believe that the Chancellor has not been quite so open with the House is on the precise position of what the agreement means. I accept and welcome that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has obtained a valuable and welcome derogation from the common
fisheries policy regarding limits and access.
On 13th December the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:
We have further agreed that before the end of 1982 the enlarged Community will, after studying a report on the situation then obtaining with particular reference to the economic and social conditions of inshore areas and the state of the fish stocks, examine the arrangements which could follow what we have negotiated for the first 10 years.
Here I must emphasise that these are not just transitional arrangements which automatically lapse at the end of a fixed period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 52.]
Two important points arise from that statement. First, we have negotiated for the first 10 years. All that we have done at the present time is to discuss transitional arrangements for 10 years.
Secondly, the provisions do not automatically lapse at the end of 10 years. What is important is not what hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to say, but that, failing unanimous agreement on policy following the negotiations for the next decade, the principle of free access must apply. In other words, do not believe that the Government have a veto on what happens after 10 years; it is, in fact, a reverse veto, the opposite to what the Chancellor set out to achieve. The Luxembourg agreement of 1965 must work against us, not necessarily in our favour. It has been commonly assumed and argued throughout the negotiations that, once we were in, the doctrine of unanimous agreement regarding matters of vital national interest would work in our favour. I believe that this is the only instance in the whole negotiations where this does not work in our favour, but against us.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman always falls back on saying that no case can be shown of the Community having over-ridden a major national interest of a member State. That sounds very good, but it applies to the setting up of new institutions and new policies. For the first time we are coming up to the possibility of a member State wishing to change an existing institution. Therefore I believe that the pressure will be to accept the present fisheries policy.
What was the purpose of the Six in pushing through a common fisheries policy to the exclusion of discussions with Britain? We have never had a satisfactory answer to that. We did not consider fisheries worth talking about, but Norway asked specifically to be consulted and make its point of view known while the policy was being drafted. It was refused because it was not a member State.
I believe that if we are to achieve some benefit after 10 years at best we shall have to bargain away some of the concessions we now have. If the right hon. and learned Gentleman is telling us that the Six have completely turned their backs on the present fisheries policy, to the extent that they have said that free access up to the beaches no longer applies. I will accept that as a very significant development. At no stage has the Community been prepared to budge on the essential principle of any other institutions. If they have given way to the extent that they are prepared to wipe out the question of free access and have an open review in which the present policy is scrapped, it does not put the Minister in such a good light as some of his hon. Friends claim, because it shows clearly that on matters like the common agricultural policy if he had dug in his heels we might have had a better bargain.
I cannot credit that the E.E.C. has turned its back on the common fisheries policy. What happens if there is failure to agree after the first 10 years? Do we maintain the existing position of our protected waters or go on to the question of free access? It is no use saying that we have cast-iron, copper-bottomed guarantees, like that on sugar that there will be a reasonable discussion at the end of 1974. We need to know the precise legal position and obtain a legal guarantee, because we are signing a legal document concerning a policy that already exists.
I believe that the Government have failed to protect the industry for the length of time we consider necessary, because they have been blinded by their desire to gain entry to the E.E.C. at any cost. Many Governments live to regret decisions. No Government in history have not taken a decision that they have later regretted. What is to be regretted is that the damage to the fishing industry will be severe. The people who earn such a precarious living from it deserve better. The damage, once done to the fishing stocks, can never be repaired at any cost.
I do not think that what we have heard so far from the Opposition really amounts to a great debate on this topic. Although they have tried hard, it does not see, unless the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) has something up his sleeve, that the debate will be seen as having been of great significance or a major crisis of confidence in the Government. The fact is that the arrangements for the initial period are perfectly acceptable. The Minches, the Clyde, the Solway Firth, the Moray Firth, the North-East coast and the Orkneys and Shetlands are all protected and no reasonable person, in Scotland at any rate, could possibly ask for more.
The difficulty comes, as we all know, with the ending of the initial period and what is to happen then. My right hon. and learned Friend has the great gift of extreme verbal agility, and unfortunately for some of us who sit at his feet this is not altogether an unmixed blessing because sometimes the facts seem elusive. I agree with those who say that we do need to know just what the facts are. The same applies to Norway, and I believe that the real reason why Norway has so far not seen fit to accept the arrangement is because she is not specifically clear about the facts involved.
Is Norway unreasonable, are we unreasonable, in wanting to do this? Can anyone say anything definite about what will happen in ten years' time or expect the Government to do so? Maybe not. But to me there is no question of our Government in ten years' time surrendering, for example, the North Sea oil royalties. Yet fisheries are as much a natural resource as oil—and the oil is much further out than the fish in the North Sea. Nor is this question affected by the interests of the deep sea fleet, because it does not fish nearer than the 12-mile limit anywhere now. That is just one example of the way the Community's common fisheries policy seems to me to be alien to its own practice and why I believe it does not need to be fundamental to the concept of the Common market and to what my right hon. and learned Friend has done so skilfully in Brussels.
As the nub of this difficulty concerns 10 years from now, we should try, difficult as it is, to think what conditions then will be. Politically, it seems to me, whatever emerges as a result of this debate, that there will be a repetition of what has happened up to now, with the Community countries battling to get into British inshore waters and the British battling to keep them out.
What will have happened to the fisheries themselves? Oceans will have become even smaller in terms of man's capacity to deal with them. Catching techniques will have developed beyond anything, perhaps, that we can now imagine. We may be beginning to herd fish; and perhaps nearer land we may well be farming fish much more extensively than we can contemplate now. In any event, pressure on the oceans' resources can only increase.
To resist that pressure, limits will certainly go further out for the sake of conservation and the most efficient exploitation of a natural resource, and because most of us are selfish. What, then, is to be the future for our European fishermen? In future, of course, Western Europe will operate any extension of limits as a continent. In that context, historic rights for national deep sea industries will have to be negotiable in concrete terms, or they have had it. Secondly, the inshore waters must continue their existing protection as a minimum, if only to give everybody room to breathe and to keep the industry's structure sound. Thirdly we will have to police and exploit the oceans in a united fashion in future if we are not to run the risk of obliterating their riches forever.
As for Scotland, doubtless it will be felt that the conditions could have been better, but if we are to build a more worth while Europe than we have had in the past selfishness and blind allegiance to self-interest at all costs will have to go and our fishermen know that, like everyone else. On that basis a continuous and prosperous future for our industry is definitely possible.
Fisheries policy is a technical subject and many of the questions ought to be answered by scientific evidence. For example, the question of whether the 12-mile limit is important, an issue debated throughout the controversy ought to be answered with hard facts. Inevitably we have seen that the attitude taken to the outcome nearly always reflects the preconceived Common Market attitude of the individual. We all like to feel that we are trying to be objective. I like to think, because I have not been a rigid hard-liner on the Market that I have been more objective than most. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) was one of those who have been very objective. I was inclined to congratulate him, but tonight he was singing a rather surprising tune.
It was a little difficult to understand why he was not even prepared to acknowledge that this question of what happens after 10 years is a worry to many fishermen and their representatives. I congratulate the hon. Member for getting us this debate. It certainly reflects the concern which he has for the fishing industry and which he has shown throughout the negotiations. We can say that at the beginning of the negotiations there were two extreme views. The fact that a view is extreme does not mean that it is wrong, but the view of the fishermen was that the only way to safeguard their interests was to get a 12-mile limit such as exists at present, without any fixed timescale.
The other view, put forward by pro-Marketeers was that the limits were not important because of the conservation measures which we could operate within the 12-mile limit and we should not worry —everything was all right; we would be able to conserve despite the entry of foreign vessels into our waters. We were told that the fishermen were over-reacting and being taken for a ride by the anti-Marketeers. The pro-Marketeers have successively moved their position. The more I have studied this and spoken to people the more I have become convinced that the fishermen have been right all the time and that the sensible and only thing to do was to get an indefinite 12-mile limit as we have now. That was a legitimate demand consistently made by the fishermen. I have been critical of the way in which the Government have handled these negotiations. There are a number of things which they did which puzzled me enormously, actions they took which made me suspicious. I have asked them about this and never really received a satisfactory reply. Now that the nego- tiations are completed I hope I will get that answer.
I want to put five points to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. First, at the beginning of the negotiations when we asked the Government to spell out what their position was, and say whether they would argue on the basis of maintaining the 12-mile limit the answer was, "We reserve our position". They did not say what they reserved. We got this vague statement. That is a minor point, but I could not think of any justification for it. I shall be interested to hear whether the right hon. and learned Gentleman can justify it tonight.
Secondly, bearing in mind the importance of the 12-mile limit—and the right hon. and learned Gentleman now accepts its importance—why did he start negotiating on the basis of the six-mile limit? I have never been able to understand that. No one has put forward any cogent reason why the Government started negotiating by giving away so much.
Thirdly, why did the right hon. and learned Gentleman allow the crucial vote on entry to be taken before these negotiations were concluded? Surely he cannot deny that his negotiating position would have been much stronger if he had said to the Council of Ministers, "Until we get a satisfactory agreement on fishing we are not prepared to take a decision on entering the Common Market". He completely weakened his position by allowing the vote on entry to be taken first. How could he argue that this matter was of vital interest to us and something on which the Government would hold out after the crucial vote on entry had been taken?
I come to the fourth and fifth points. They are more recent and more important. The fourth point was raised very lucidly by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes), by the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) and by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson), namely, what will be the position at the end of the 10 years? My impression was that the right hon. and learned Gentleman was haggling last weekend about what the situation would be at the end of the 10 years.
There were two possible outcomes. One was that there could be a temporary derogation from the common fisheries policy so that at the end of the 10 years the status quo was the common fisheries policy and therefore we could not veto it; we could veto only a proposal put forward by one or more of the other members of the Community. The other possible outcome was that there would be an indefinite 12-mile limit, subject to a review, but there would be no question of it automatically lapsing after 10 years, in which case we could have used the veto to stop a change from our present 12-mile limit. Perhaps I am wrong. If so, I hope that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will tell me.
When my right hon. Friend the Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) asked the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster about this matter on 13th December, the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:
In practice, whatever the legal position, we will be able in 1982 to assert in the light of the Luxembourg agreement—that is all that has happened since the Treaty of Rome was signed—the protection of our vital interests."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 62.]
It is all very well for the right hon. and learned Gentleman to use the phrase "whatever the legal position", but we want to know the legal position. The legal position is not irrelevant. The legal position will not necessarily dictate completely what the outcome will be, but our bargaining position will depend very much on the legal position. Surely there is a legal position. After all, when we went through the negotiations and arguments put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman by the other countries were we not arguing about getting a legal position which would be satisfactory from the point of view of the Community? Let us have it from the right hon. and learned Gentleman tonight. What is the legal position? There must be a legal position and surely he must know what it is.
The fifth point I want to come to is almost as important as the one I have just mentioned. It seems to me that the reason why the Government seemed to be making progress in the negotiations was not so much because of what they were doing, but because of what Norway was doing. This was the impression which the Press had. The idea was put around that the right hon. and learned
Gentleman was tagging on to Norway, that Norway was making the running, that if Norway got a good deal then Britain would get a good deal. I have said before that I did not mind if we got a good deal because of Norway; I did not mind if we got a good deal despite the efforts of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. What was important to me was that we got a satisfactory agreement. That was why we on this side of the House, and hon. Members on the other side, insisted that we should not get terms worse than those agreed for Norway. I want to make what, I think, will be the most important statement I shall make this evening: I want to quote what the Minister of Agriculture said when he was speaking for the Government prior to the crucial vote on entry, when all those here concerned about this issue were hanging on his every word. What did he say on this question of Norway, on this question of seeing we got terms as good as the other applicants? This is what he said:
My answer is quite clear. We can certainly not agree to any terms for ourselves without knowing the terms which will be offered or granted to the other applicants …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1034.]
The fifth point I want to put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman is, how do the Government reconcile what has happened with that solemn pledge given by the Minister of Agriculture prior to the crucial vote on entry?
Does the hon. Member not realise that the statement was "without knowing the terms which will be offered"? It is not a question of agreeing or having similar terms, but simply a question of knowing.
Let me take the hon. Gentleman up on that point. Is he saying that the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows that the Council of Ministers will not improve the terms offered to Norway? Is he saying that the right hon. and learned Gentleman knows exactly what terms are to be given to Norway, and has a categorical assurance from the Common Market that it will not improve them? Are we in the position now that the right hon. and learned Gentleman is now siding with the members of the Community against Norway on this issue?
If he is, he proves my point.
How does the right hon. and learned Gentleman reconcile what has happened with that statement by the Minister of Agriculture? It is all very well for the Minister of Agriculture to tell us that people are not always expected to take the Government or his right hon. Friends seriously. It is one thing to say before an election that they will reduce prices at a stroke, or reduce unemployment. It is far more serious to say, in an historic debate, that something will be done and then to rat on it afterwards in this way.
Hon. Members opposite have said that we are anxious, or that anti-Marketeers are anxious, to call this a sell-out. I am not anxious to call it a sell-out. I want to know what the position is. What has been achieved for the fishermen of my constituency and for the inshore fishing industry of Scotland? The Under-Secretary of State, the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), says that the Scottish fishermen are satisfied with what he has brought back, and he has given them reassurance. I assume that that means that he has satisfactorily answered the points which I and other hon. Members have put in this debate. If that is so, I hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy will do the same when he replies tonight.
I take the view that the Government have done rather better than a lot of us feared. At one stage, we thought that they would not get the 12-mile limits. Obviously, many fishermen are somewhat relieved. But it is not good enough just to get something better than we feared, when we feared something disastrous.
The struggle ahead for representatives of the fishing industry and those of us who are concerned for its interests will be to convince the Government and convince the Community that the present 12-mile limits must be maintained indefinitely. But, for the present, we have a right to expect the right hon. and learned Gentleman to tell us precisely what the legal position is and precisely what he has brought back from Brussels.
I hope that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) will forgive me if I do not follow him into his dark waters, and I hope also that my right hon. and learned Friend will forgive me if I do not expand on the well deserved plaudits which are his due for the agreement as a whole. My concern is for a small number of my 50,000 constituents, that is, about 50 inshore fishermen who work from the port of Conway and Port Penrhyn near Bangor in North Wales. This small community is typical of many other fishing communities on the west coast.
The smallness of their number increases rather than diminishes their importance in my eyes in this context. To many, they present something of a test case of what happens, or could happen, to small groups when Britain joins the E.E.C., a policy which I personally support and voted for on 28th October, in the sincere belief that Britain as a whole, and in part, will thereby prosper greatly. I think, like the noble Lord Lord Boothby, that too many commented on the agreement before they had heard my right hon. and learned Friend's statement.
Be that as it may, some of my fishermen said that they believed that my right hon. and learned Friend, in abandoning the 12-mile limit along the Welsh coast and in Liverpool Bay, abandoned them, and I am most anxious to reassure them that it is not true. There are many in Wales, quite apart from the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) and perhaps the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones) and neither of their political persuasion nor mine, who are anxious to attack the policy of entry into the E.E.C. and would be delighted to point out how small communities are likely to suffer. I ask my right hon. and learned Friend to pay close attention to this.
On Monday, when I asked him why he had abandoned the 12-mile limit, he said that he was concerned in the negotions with
…areas which are not already adequately covered by the base lines or in which there was very little fishing between six and 12 miles."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 58.]
"Very little fishing" could, I suppose, mean the operation of a small group like my fishermen of Conway, who say that
they felt well protected before my right hon. and learned Friend concluded his agreement and now say that they feel inadequately protected. I believe that they may have misunderstood the position, and I am at this late hour asking for clarification on their behalf.
I understand from my right hon. and learned Friend's statement on Monday that there is to be a generalisation of existing rights in the areas without benefit of the six to 12 mile special protection given elsewhere. What does this mean precisely? We have heard quite a bit about Cardigan Bay. I know that the French had lobster and crawfish rights only there, and the Irish had demersal rights. Are the French, the Irish and others now to have all types of fishing rights in that area and similarly around Anglesey, where the Irish alone had rights, and in Liverpool Bay, where the French and Irish were limited to demersal rights only? Are we now to have all E.E.C. nations exercising all rights?
I was very glad, and so were my fishermen, to hear my right hon. and learned Friend's reassurance that British jurisdiction would continue to extend for 12 miles. I understand that to mean that we can now board foreign vessels to check net sizes and so on. Can we also prevent over-fishing and give extra protection, if necessary, between the six and 12 miles limits? I should like to know precisely what this exercise of jurisdiction up to 12 miles can mean.
My right hon. and learned Friend has referred to the possible benefits to fishermen of membership of the Community, and I think I know what he is referring to. French fishermen are certainly thriving within the E.E.C. and there are obviously special benefits our fishermen could obtain from the E.E.C. too.
I was glad to hear my right hon. and learned Friend express great concern about the livelihood of British fishermen; he assured us that their livelihood was safeguarded. If the livelihood of any of them were threatened, would he give some consideration to the idea of compensation for fishermen, just as we have given consideration to compensation for apple and pear growers?
Our fishermen in Wales are not as numerous as fishermen in other parts of the country, but they are no less import- ant; they are no less the heart and soul of their communities. Therefore, when Britain joins the E.E.C. we want to see these fishing communities fully preserved and flourishing.
Like earlier speakers, I am rather curious why there are so many Ministers present on the Government Front Bench. At this early hour of 4.15 in the morning there are present a Cabinet Minister, two Scottish Ministers, and the Chief Whip. I wonder why. I hope one of the reasons is not that they see this as an alternative to the proper debate we must have before this country signs the Treaty of Accession.
I stress this because I suspect that the importance of fisheries has not really been accepted by the Government. I am talking about entry into the Common Market and the relative importance of fisheries in the eyes of this Government. This is an important matter for the economy as a whole and, of course, for the communities around the coast. [Interruption.] The Chief Whip may not know this, but I did not speak in the Common Market debates; I left it to others. I have sat up until 4 o'clock in the morning to speak on fisheries because I think this matter is being neglected by the Government. The House will know that for some three years I was at the Scottish Office in charge of fishing matters, and my hon. Friends will know that my ancestors on both sides were ordinary fishermen. Therefore, I hope to speak a little on their behalf tonight.
I want to relate my remarks to two main problems. I wish first to ask what was meant by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster in his statement. Some of his interpretations were at variance with the interpretation given in the House of Lords. We have read the proceedings carefully and we are still confused about what it meant.
Every hon. Member on the Government back benches this morning has said, "We shall possess the veto in 1982." But the Chancellor of the Duchy has not yet commented on that. It may be that one reason for the presence of so many Ministers is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman intends today to make a statement to clarify this point. But as some of us understand it—and there is a reason we think this is a correct interpretation—the common fishery policy is nominated as the basic policy of the Common Market. This has been emphasised to us by the fact that they ensured that it was the policy before we entered into negotiations. We have all commented on this point.
Why was it brought forward at this point? Surely the answer is: to make sure that the base of the future fisheries policy is the common fishery policy of the Common Market. In that case what has been secured by the Chancellor of the Duchy has been a derogation from that base. In 1982—but only if it is unanimous—we could get a continuing derogation; and a veto at that point would prevent the derogation continuing and we would revert to the common fisheries policy.
Am I right? This must be clarified. If our interpretation is right far from being the safeguard which it has been presented as over the last few days for the operation of the policy after 1982, the veto will act against us. Speaker after speaker has expressed opposing views and we have not had clarification from the Chancellor. Who is right, the Conservative back-benchers or the Opposition back-benchers? This problem has dogged the whole debate.
Throughout the negotiations I have had the complete cooperation of and consultation with the working party to which I have paid tribute. Over a matter of months they have given up a lot of their personal time to come to meet me so that I could explain it. I explained to them today how the arrangements worked and this was accepted by them.
It has not been properly explained to the House of Lords or the House of Commons. We still do not know. It has been argued that the veto will protect our position, that if in 1982 the arrangements are not satisfactory we will have the veto. We say that this is not so. Precisely the opposite will happen as we see it, because the common fisheries policy exists and care was taken to make sure it existed before we entered the Common Market. Therefore, what has been secured for the next 10 years—the phrase was "We must emphasise that these are not just transitional arrangements"—is a derogation from the common fisheries policy.
If the derogation is to continue after 1982 there must be unanimity in the Common Market. The veto at that point could be used to prevent the derogation, the continuation of this policy of the 12-mile limit in these areas, and we would then revert to the common fisheries policy. This is what we want clarified. It is absolutely crucial.
There is also the problem of the importance or otherwise which the Government places on the fishing industry. The point was made by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) that the Labour side did not know how to negotiate. The worst possible way of negotiating is to say, "We intend to sign the Treaty of Accession. Now let us go on and negotiate the fisheries policy." I could not imagine a weaker position to adopt in negotiations.
The biggest weapon that we had for securing a proper fisheries negotiation was the position that we thought had been announced during the autumn by the right hon. and learned Gentleman and others that, without a satisfactory fishing policy being agreed, there would be no entry. That was not the position when we were pushed into voting on 28th October before we knew whether we could achieve a satisfactory agreement. This seems to be the worst possible way of negotiating.
That is why we have a second reason for being suspicious about this Government's policy on fisheries and about what it really means. Both these matters suggest that they do not place a great deal of importance upon the fisheries policy and, therefore, that what we have seen may be a whitewashing operation. That is why, for the first time in this House, I feel compelled to speak about the Common Market. Until now, my view has been that we have heard too much about it for a good few years.
We are told that we need not be concerned about this derogation problem in 1982 since the situation may have changed by 1982. To suggest to hon. Members who represent fishing communities that the fish may move and that there may be a change in fish habits before we reach an agreement on fishing limits is a nonstarter. Fishing limits do not follow shoals of fish. They are related to fixed boundaries. They are fixed in relation to the land mass, and not to where shoals of herring are.
The hon. Gentleman has referred to the fact that he was for three years in charge of fisheries in Scotland. Will not he agree that there have been, over the years, different areas where herring could be caught?
With respect, that is not the point. The limit is fixed in relation to the land mass. From the land mass, one projects 3, 6 or 12-mile limits. We have had all three, and different combinations of the three. What one cannot do is to project them out to go after a particular fishing area, and then change them when the fish move south. That is what I regard as nonsensical.
We know the basic prognostications about fish. We know that there will not be a change in eating habits. We shall not all start eating Norwegian pouting in 1982. Of course, that may be an important fish in 1982, in which case it is a pity that more protection was not given to the west coast of Lewis, because that area may be important to us if we go after Norwegian pouting as industrial fishing.
I want to spend a little time discussing the position of the Norwegians—
Order. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will remember what he said earlier in his remarks about there being many other hon. Members waiting to speak in this and subsequent debates.
I am sorry. I do not know how long I have been speaking. Perhaps, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will tell me if I have exceeded the score. I do not think that I am over it yet. I intend to keep my remarks brief. Perhaps we might check at the end of my speech. If it is found that I have been over-long, I shall apologise.
My final point concerns Norway. I am glad that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has returned to the Chamber. This has been a disgraceful operation. It is clear that Norway would not have attempted to enter the Common Market had not Britain been entering. Norway would not have applied on her own. In a sense, we felt that the Danish, Norwegian and Irish applications stood or fell with our own.
Norway depends on fish. No matter how lightly the British Government may regard fishing and no matter how low fishing comes in our economic priorities, the position is very different in Norway. It is the core and the staple of the Norwegian economy. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) said that we must not be selfish. So let us think of Norway. Norway is now placed over a barrel by this Government's action and is now faced with the choice of two evils; first, that Norway's interests of securing a common policy between ourselves, Britain and Norway, have been sacrificed—I shall examine why and how in a moment. That has gone. Norway is being offered an agreement less satisfactory than it needs for its important fishing economy, so it could choose not to enter the Common Market.
If the Norwegians do not enter the Common Market they are faced with a situation in which their major ally, Britain, will be entering the Common Market and our trade, investment policy and everything else will be orientated towards Europe. We are facing the Norwegians with the choice of two evils. It is shameful that we have done this. There was no excuse for it. There were sufficient promises that we would be sticking to a common policy. I quote the Minister of Agriculture:
We can certainly not agree to any terms for ourselves without knowing the terms which will be offered or granted to the other applicants.
The Minister continued:
I would expect that to mean that we would continue to have comparable treatment on fishing limits with the other applicants."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1971; Vol. 823, c. 1034.]
Is it true that the Prime Minister wrote to the Norwegians asking them to limit their demands? If he did, I hope that the request is treated with contempt. It is disgraceful that this country, with 50
million people, should be saying this to Norway, with 3 or 4 million people and an economy that depends on fishing. I hope that it can be denied that that was done in this form.
Whether or not the Government did this, or whether the Prime Minister tried to pull Norway back down, as he moderated his almost holy point of getting into Europe, we have faced our ally, a partner in war as our partner in trade, with the choice between two evils, and it is disgraceful. It is for this reason, above all, that I have ended my long silence on the Common Market in the House. I have no wish to enter the Common Market after such a shameful piece of behaviour towards an ally.
The only point on which I agree with the hon. Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) is that there is a danger if Norway fails to reach agreement, does not come into the Common Market and adopts fishing limits which may be a danger to our industry.
Many hon. Members have very much overplayed the dangers of the policy which my right hon. and learned Friend has accomplished. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) underlined the fact that he had accomplished something very much better than almost anyone had anticipated. On the other hand, we do the fishing industry a disservice if we say that everything is all right. There is a fear among fishermen that, because a certain amount has been given up, this is the beginning of a slide. They need reassurance. It is easy to quote figures and say that only a small percentage is affected. But if one happens to be a fisherman who fishes in that particular stretch of water one could lose 100 per cent. of one's catch, although the percentage of the national catch may be very small.
What worries fishermen in my part of the world are the words which, perhaps inadvertently, my right hon. and learned Friend used when he said that there was so much "theology" in this matter. What appears to me to have happened—I may be wrong—is that we have said all along that the Common Market fisheries policy is totally unacceptable, but in order to conform to the tenets of the Common Market we have had to say that we agree to a review, which we do not agree with, in 10 years' time. It is not theology. It is double talk. The bishops would not class it in any other way.
People are worried because we have had to say that a review will be necessary, when I do not believe that my right hon. and learned Friend believes that we are able to give anything away. This is the first point that needs explaining, and if the Chancellor of the Duchy can explain it he will go a long way to carrying the fishermen with him in believing that we have really achieved something far better than seemed possible a few months ago.
In his statement on Monday my right hon. and learned Friend also spoke about reaching an agreement with the Community for attempting to determine conditions for the preservation of the biological resources of the sea as soon as practicable and certainly by 1979. It is essential that this is done at the earliest possible moment, for if it is done early we will be able to produce evidence to show, at the time of the review, that it is impossible to accept a fisheries policy which comes right up to the coastline.
Whatever we say about a 6- or 12-mile limit, fishermen already accept that we are taking too much out of the sea. The sooner this investigation is done the better, and then the facts will be known, before 1982, whereupon everybody will agree that the common fisheries policy as it stands is a nonsense. We know that that is what it is, and we must prove it.
Is it possible to strengthen the conservation policing services by using the resources of the Royal Air Force? We could have photographic reconnaissance with helicopters on some ships to give us a good picture of what is going on around our coasts. We are able to obtain pictures of the moon. We should be able to arrange an adequate means of policing this matter, especially with the co-operation of the R.A.F.
If we show that we are determined to police the limits that have been agreed and if we can show that there is no possibility of the common fisheries policy being adopted in 10 years' time, then I am sure that our fishermen will accept that my right hon. and learned Friend has made a considerable achievement.
Despite what hon. Gentlemen opposite claim have been the achievements of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, they cannot deny that there is a great deal of confusion and uncertainty about what the situation will be in 1982 with regard to fisheries.
I trust that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will be frank with the House tonight. Accepting what has been arranged in relation to the common fisheries policy and the 10-year period, does the right hon. and learned Gentleman recall the cheers when he told the Conservative Party Conference last October that the policy included in 1970 was "utterly unsuitable" and that the United Kingdom would not sign a Treaty of Accession which would commit us to the Community's fisheries policy?
Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman now using those words in the context of the 1982 review? When that time comes, will he state that the common fisheries policy will not possibly be acceptable. Is the Commission and Council of Ministers aware that the common fisheries policy will not be a starting point in 1982? This is a simple question which deserves a straight answer because the fishermen of Britain are waiting for the answer.
Many of us are concerned about how the negotiations have developed, not only in respect of fisheries but of matters outside the scope of this debate. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) congratulated the Government on their negotiations. But what a way to negotiate! To decide to go in, then seeing if agreement can be reached on fisheries, taking a vote on 28th October and deciding the question of fisheries in December, two months afterwards. If this is a new way of negotiation, the negotiators can keep it.
On 1st December the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made a crucial statement commenting on negotiations so far. He said:
We made useful progress in some respects. The Community proposed that there should be, for 10 years, an interim régime based on a 6-mile limit with special areas going out to 12 miles.
That, to my ordinary mind, is basically the situation now, and one which the right hon. and learned Gentleman has accepted for the next 10 years. He went on:
I had to make it clear, however, that its proposals did not go far enough to safeguard the legitimate interests of the fishing industry and did not, in our view, provide a fair overall balance of mutual advantage.
He also said:
I explained that an initial period of 10 years by itself was not sufficient…".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1971; Vol. 827. c. 445–6.]
I have it in my mind that the right hon. and learned Gentleman will say, "Oh, but we secured a review." He will say that there will now be a review. But on 13th December he said:
Here I must emphasise that these are not just transitional arrangements which automatically lapse at the end of a fixed period."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 52.]
Is the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster now telling us that the review which is supposed to take place is one which does not accept the common fisheries policy but starts from what is accepted now, and that we will not fall back from our present position? It is his duty to explain this crucial question. We want to know whether the Government have been able to obtain the kind of agreement which gives the fisheries industry a secure basis for more than just a transitional period of 10 years. The fishermen want to know what is to happen in 1982.
Will the veto be to our advantage? Does the Minister envisage the day when we will use it? Some of his hon. Friends have said tonight that they would like to see it operated. The hon. Member for Torrington had a peculiar type of veto in mind which was not concerned with the Council of Ministers. He talked about the fishermen of Devon and Cornwall who seem to have their own brand of veto against infiltration of their fishing areas. Last Monday the right hon. and learned Gentleman categorically stated:
It is not wise to talk in terms of a veto." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 580.]
Will the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster make it quite clear whether at that review the common fisheries policy will have to be accepted? Or, if we are falling back from what has been the
position so far, will we use the veto? Let us be told whether the veto will be used when the time comes.
We entered these negotiations jointly with Norway, Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. Norway took our intentions in good faith, and the Chancellor of the Duchy repeatedly said that we would not accept worse terms than Norway. Are these the terms that will be offered to Norway? if Norway has better terms, he is going back on his word.
Furthermore, what was in the letter from the Prime Minister to the Prime Minister of Norway? Was it a plea to water down Norway's case so that our position would be easier and the attempt to sign the Treaty before Christmas would succeed? If I am wrong, the Chancellor can put the record straight and then no one will doubt his word.
Another important point is to what extent will our industry be bound by E.E.C. regulations, particularly the marketing regulations? Will we accept them automatically and without debate, or will they be part of the legislation presented to us? They need special attention.
Even the hon. Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn Roberts), in a quiet and gentlemanly way, expressed concern about Wales. The Western Mail said on 14th December that "if these terms are accepted, two out of three of the main fishing grounds of the fishermen of Milford Haven and Pembrokeshire will no longer have the protection of a 12-mile limit". The question is asked in the Principality, why was no part of Wales' coastline deemed suitable for a 12-mile limit?
Although our fishing industry is far smaller than that in other parts of the Kingdom, it has 365 vessels, and 400 or 500 people are directly involved in the industry, which brings to the economy of Wales £1 million a year, which is no mean figure. Finally, the Chancellor must make it clear how he sees the situation in 1982. I am not interested in where the fish will be, which is how some hon. Members were trying to camouflage the situation. Has the Chancellor told the Council of Ministers that even in 1982 the common fisheries policy is unacceptable? Has he told the Council of Ministers that what we have so far agreed we will not go back on and that we shall want to improve on it? Has he informed them that any attempt to have a fall-back situation will be vetoed immediately?
All hon. Members who have spoken in the debate represent maritime constituencies. I, however, represent an inland seat, so perhaps I am able to approach the question a little more objectively.
Our fishing industry employs about 20,000 people and last year it had a total catch worth £66 million. As an industry it is heavily subsidised. It also obtains gratis many maritime services provided by the Government, including fisheries protection by the Royal Navy and environmental prediction services. When we compare 20,000 people with the total work force of this country and £66 million with the gross national product, they represent very small proportions.
I do not think that any prudent Government could consider whether or not we should join the E.E.C. solely on the fate of the fishing industry, though some hon. Members have been disposed to attempt just that. Nevertheless, fishing is a major source of livelihood for people living on our coasts and there are not many other employment prospects open to them. Therefore, people living inland owe them an obligation. But, irrespective of the particular arrangements which have been negotiated by the Government on fisheries, the fishing industry of this country has nothing—I repeat, nothing—to lose and everything to gain by Britain adhering to the Treaty of Rome.
To put this over quickly, as time as running out, I ask hon. Members to imagine that they are fish. It is not very difficult if one holds one's breath to imagine that one is an itinerant creature swimming freely about the oceans on passage for one's old haunts and breeding grounds. While en route one will be greatly influenced by environmental factors: sunlight, salinity, nutrients, temperature, currents, the nature of the sea floor and, of course, predators. But one will not take any notice, if indeed one noticed them, of the artificial frontiers which we humans have drawn in the oceans.
My point is that effective conservation of the marine environment is essentially an international exercise. If we are to preserve the life and health of the seas around our coasts, we must establish a régime there which reflects the nature and character of the sea itself, and not by extending political barriers of the kind we have on dry land.
The whole error of what I have heard in the debate tonight and, indeed, in the whole of the debate regarding fisheries and the E.E.C., is that fish have been considered in isolation from the environment in which they exist and divorced from other activities which go on there. Ocean management is an extraordinarily complex issue, and effective conservation requires a high degree of political integration between the countries attempting it. I do not think that it matters two hoots what happens in 10 years' time, because everyone involved in marine affairs knows that in the next 10 years the whole concept of freedom of fishing on the high seas will disappear from large areas of the oceans. The whole idea of fishery limits will come to be seen as obsolete, and it will be replaced by a system of quotas initially and perhaps later by a licensing system.
It is precisely because the Common Market provides for the high degree of political integration required that I believe we can achieve conservation in European waters. European unity, in fact, provides us with the opportunity effectively to conserve fisheries from over-exploitation and contamination by pollution. Unless we succeed in that, there will be very few fish to quarrel about in 10 years' time. We have had to make concessions in the negotiations, but I believe that the balance of advantage is decisively in our favour.
We are all grateful to the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker), who gave us the opportunity to debate this very important matter, and all of us who have listened to the debate feel that it has been very worth while so far. I add that qualification, because very important questions have been put to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, and before we can say that it has been a worth while debate we shall have to hear his answers. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has been left in no doubt about our concern, beginning with the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston-upon-Hull, West (Mr. James Johnson), reinforced by my hon. Friends the Members for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan), Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes), Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) and Carmarthen (Mr. Gwynoro Jones), all making essentially the same point and putting the same question to him: what will happen at the end of the 10-year transitional period that he has negotiated?
I shall put certain propositions to the right hon. and learned Gentleman and see how far I have been able to decipher the mysteries of his mind in interpreting some of the things he has told us before, and I will then put my own interpretation of the agreement to him for his comment and perhaps for his assent.
The fishing industry is obviously of great importance to many people in this country, not only those directly concerned with the industry, the fishermen themselves, but to many communities associated with their work. Even more widely, there is something in the point that we are an island, maritime nation, and the business of fishing is to us of rather greater importance than it is in terms purely of its economic size and contribution to the national economy. There is a strong national sentiment in favour of ships and fishing and the sea. Therefore, this is a matter of great interest and importance to the whole nation—the urban population as well as those directly concerned.
We can understand what has happened only if we repeat the unhappy story of the Six's attempt to work out a common fisheries policy for themselves and then their efforts to impose it upon Britain and the other applicant nations. The starting point, as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan pointed out, was the agreement by the Six to have a common fisheries policy, almost to the day before our formal negotiations began, and then the conclusion of their common fishing policy in the autumn of that same year, 1970. It is extraordinary that the Six, knowing full well that the four applicant countries had major fishing interests whereas among the Six themselves fishing has been of comparatively minor importance, should have done this. One is driven to believing that the Six made this common fisheries policy effort not so much to solve problems amongst themselves, such as these were, but to take up a strong bargaining position as against the applicants in the new negotiations.
The Government took a gamble in leaving the fisheries part of the negotiations till the end. I thought at one stage that the gamble would come off inasmuch as, the Government having made enormous concessions over the whole range of matters negotiated up to last summer, a reasonable settlement of the fisheries problem could be expected as a kind of consolation prize for all the defeats and almost humiliations which the Government had suffered. One might have thought it almost inconceivable that the French, having won probably the greatest diplomatic and financial triumph in their history at our expense, would put all that in jeopardy for what after all is a preposterous claim of access to our fishing rights. If that was in the Government's mind, they were disappointed, because they under-estimated the determination of the French, who as usual took the lead, to squeeze the utmost advantage out of their bargaining situation.
In judging what the right hon. and learned Gentleman has brought back, we do not have to look hard to find the right tests by which to assess the quality and worthwhileness of the agreement, because he himself provided us with those tests in his recent statement. I refer in particular to the statement he made on 11th November when he first turned in some detail to this question. There he laid down the crucial aim of his policy. It was:
… however long the initial period there must be arrangements on a continuing basis subject to review.
These words were not lightly plucked from the air, they are important, serious words carrying a great weight of meaning. If anyone is in doubt I will explain further in a moment. That was his first test.
During the course of questions following the statement we got the second test by which we could judge whether he had come back with a good bargain. My right hon. Friend the Member for Battersea, North (Mr. Jay) put to him that he should not accept any arrangement less favourable than that secured by Norwegian fishermen. He replied:
That means that we would expect to receive comparable treatment to Norway and the other candidate countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th November, 1971; Vol. 825, c. 1239–1245.]
If I may make a passing reference to the hon. Member for Banff who rather overdid the panegyric, he made almost the same point then and got virtually an identical reply—that the Chancellor would "ensure comparable and fair treatment between all the parties concerned."
Those are the two tests provided by the Chancellor just over four weeks ago. The subsequent history is a little embarrassing, at least for the right hon. and learned Gentleman. We find that in his statement of 1st December the retreat has already begun. It is quite a substantial retreat. We find this phrase:
I do not think that there will be too much difficulty about the 10-year interim period, but I cannot say that at the end of the 10-year period there must automatically be continuation of the same arrangements."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st December, 1971; Vol. 827, c. 454.]
That was quite a change from "continuing arrangements subject to review". Then in the allusion to Norway instead of terms comparable with those of Norway, in a reply to one of his right hon. Friends it became "broadly comparable". The movement had begun on 1st December. What do we find on 13th December? There we can see how far the retreat had gone. We find no mention now of "continuing arrangement subject to review". On the contrary, there is a statement about the maintenance of the status quo for a decade followed by a fair and open-ended review. That is considerably different.
As for Norway with whom we were to have comparable arrangements—and broadly comparable only a fortnight later —the right hon. and learned Gentleman said:
Norway's negotiations are carried on by the Norwegian Government. I cannot answer in this House for why the Norwegian Government are not yet satisfied."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 58.]
What a remarkable movement in so short a time.
I come to the point to which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West (Mr. Buchan) alluded—the strange incident of the Prime Minister's letter to the Prime Minister of Norway. We have nothing definite about it, but from the way things, or bits of them, sometimes appear in the newspapers, we learn that such a letter was sent. We infer—and it has not been denied—that the purpose was to persuade the Norwegian Government to help the British Government out of the embarrassment of sticking by their own words and of sticking by Norway.
Then we can have a denial of it, but that is the inference drawn throughout Europe and not only in this country. If that is not true, the hon. Gentleman had better leave it to his right hon. and learned Friend to try to provide the answer.
Looking back, what can one say? It seems to me that two matters of great substance have arisen. One is the question of what happens after the transitional period. We know that there is to be a review at the end of 10 years. We know that the review is to be carried out by the Commission, and later
… the Council, acting on a proposal of the Commision, will examine the arrangements which could follow the derogations in force until 31st December, 1982".
I stress the word "until", because it makes the point clear that the derogation ends on 31st December, 1982.
But the point of all the questions put by my hon. Friends is, what happens if, following the review, policy proposals are put forward which are disagreed between this country and perhaps other applicant countries and by existing countries in the Community? It is at this point that it matters enormously whether we have negotiated a derogation from the basic rules and, therefore, whether at the end of that derogation we revert, unless the Council unanimously agrees to the contrary, to the existing basic regulation; or whether it is as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster sought to make it in the quotation which I read at the beginning of my speech from his statement in November, namely, that there would be a continuing arrangement by this country subject to review. This is the heart of the matter—the question of which way the veto is to be applied. [Interruption.] This is very important and I am not seeking to score a point. Like the right hon. and learned Gentleman, I find this rather heavy going at this time in the morning and I am seeking, as I am sure the House, the public and the fishermen are seeking, great clarity because it is the fishermen's future and livelihoods which are at stake.
I should like to put to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster a certain interpretation of what has happened and what the positions were. I refer to the report in l'Europe of 29th November, 1971, dealing with statements made by M. Deniau, who is the Commissioner dealing with the issue of fisheries in the discussions. I should like to read to the House what l'Europe said:
M. Deniau stressed the distinction which is to be made between the situation of Norway on the one hand and of Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark on the other. The three last-named countries accept the principle that the Community régime of unrestricted fishing must be introduced in the end. The negotiations are to settle the length and nature of the transitional period and exemptions. Norway, on the othed hand, is asking for permanent exception.
I should like to know—I think the House would like to know—whether this is an accurate report of the position, because if it is, as, I think, the right hon. and learned Gentleman will agree, it really does put his own explanation under direct challenge.
The other point which I would like to make is, again, a point which my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrew, West took up, and that is the way in which Norway has been treated in these negotions. I must say that one is almost driven to ask the question whether the Government now believe that Norway is to be a member of the Common Market, whether they attach great importance to Norway's joining the Common Market, or whether they think that this is a matter solely of concern to the Norwegian Government.
I must put to the right hon. and learned Gentleman a point which has certainly been put to me, and that is, that not all the Six are, or have been, enthusiastic about Norway's joining the Common Market. There is a school of thought which would prefer Norway to remain outside, and one of the things which worry me is that the right hon. and learned Gentleman may—I would hope, unwittingly—have helped to bring about a situation in which Norway has been isolated from the other applicants and placed in precisely that dilemma to which my hon. Friend referred, the dilemma, that, whichever way she goes, the choice is painful and the road is hard.
So I do not see—I really do not see—the causes or reasons why hon. Members on that side should wish to congratulate the right hon. and learned Gentleman on his fisheries negotiations. I see, on the contrary, many reasons why the House, and even more the public and the fishermen, should have very great concern as to what has been negotiated for them, and particularly as to the unsatisfactory and dangerously loose arrangements which will follow on the end of the transitional period.
I conclude by saying that I think that it would be a disgrace if the Chancellor of the Duchy and the Government were to go ahead and sign a treaty of accession before this House has had a full and proper opportunity, at a reasonable time, to discuss this very important matter.
I echo what the right hon. Member for Stepney (Mr. Shore) said in his first few sentences. Right hon. and hon. Members on both sides are grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. W. H. K. Baker) for initiating what has been a valuable, interesting and fairly wide-ranging debate. I hope that it will be regarded as having provided a suitable opportunity for right hon. and hon. Members interested in this matter to clarify the position. It was plain from the speeches made by right hon. and hon. Members opposite that some clarification is required.
Perhaps, at the outset, I should make clear that we have never opposed the concept of a common fisheries policy. Indeed, we have always thought that the emphasis which it places on conservation and marketing, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Banff referred, holds out great potential advantages.
I feel that the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) was right when he said that a great deal of apprehension was aroused by the timing of the introduction of the common fisheries policy. I have always been prepared to accept that that was to some extent a coincidence, and the Community had been trying in a series of meetings to establish its common fisheries policy. However, I put it to the Community countries that not everyone believed me when I said that; and, in so far as they did introduce it at that time, I think it did undermine to some extent some people's confidence in the motives for which it was introduced.
We reserved our position from the outset. Our substantive objections, as my hon. Friend said, were really directed to the fact that in its detailed application, while it might be suitable for a Community of Six, it was manifestly not suitable for a Community of Ten with much more extensive fishing interests. In the course of the negotiations, we have secured agreement that adjustments are necessary in the marketing regulation in order to meet the needs of the far wider area, and we have discussed, as I have reported to the House on other occasions, the need to make adjustments as regards withdrawal prices, prices for remoter areas, powers of producer organisations, frozen fish, grading arrangements, and so on. With those adjustments, I think that the fishermen of this country will find, as the fishermen of France did when they acquiesced in return for some changes in their own fishery limits, that there is considerable economic advantage. At least, that must be our hope.
Our main criticisms were directed to the provisions relating to access. I believe that the arrangements which we have now made for protecting our fishing limits provide adequate safeguards, bearing in mind—this is important—that we retain full jurisdiction up to 12 miles from the base lines all round our coast.
The hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Robert Hughes) took what he described as a rather conspiratorial view of what had taken place in this regard. He thought that the negotiations had been held up deliberately until after the vote.
I did not say that. I said that I did not regard the delay in the timing of the discussion on fisheries policy as sinister, but I added that some people who took a con-conspiratorial view of politics might take a different view, and I went on to describe what it was.
I am grateful for that clarification from the hon. Gentleman. I am glad that he does not share the view which was expressed by his right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, who suggested that these matters had been held up deliberately. Of course, that was not so. One of the problems in regard to fisheries regulation was that it was essential that we should have a multi-national negotiation; it fell into place naturally in that context. The right hon. Member for Stepney, on the other hand, thought that it was all a gamble, and that was the reason why it was delayed.
The trouble with the right hon. Member for Stepney is that he is not looking for success in these negotiations. It was typical of his approach to the whole matter that he should refer today, as he has often done in the past, to the humiliating terms we have accepted. A majority of the members of the Labour Cabinet in which he served believed that the terms were fair and reasonable, and they have not only said so publicly but have voted to that effect. A great deal of damage has been done, and a great deal of needless anxiety has been caused to our fishermen, by the way in which so many people have been ready to cry "sellout" before they have even read the terms.
It is interesting now that, as the fishermen are having the terms explained to them and are having an opportunity to read them, they are saying, "We are satisfied that it is not a sell-out." They may have reservations, but certainly the Scottish fishermen said today that, now that they have had a look at what it is all about, they understand that steps we have taken to safeguard their position. What my hon. Friend the Member for Fife, West (Sir J. Gilmour) said about creating confidence in the fishing industry is tremendously important. People who have more interest in opposing our entry into the Common Market than defending the rights of fishermen do a great disservice to our fishermen.
The limits which we have negotiated substantially protect our inshore fishermen. The figures given for Scotland by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff are broadly correct. My hon. Friend was right in saying that the value of the Scottish catch between 0 and 12 miles in 1970 was about £16 million and that this represented about 5·5 million cwt. The value of the catch between six and 12 miles off the coast of Scotland, where we sought only a 12 mile arrangement with the Community because we are protected by a base line particularly through the Minches and the Clyde, is estimated at only £600,000, representing about 160,000 cwt. For the United Kingdom as a whole, about 95 per cent. of inshore fishing by value will under these arrangements receive the same degree of protection as is afforded at present.
That does not mean that the fishermen who are concerned in the areas in which only 5 per cent. of our inshore fishing is done have had their interests brushed aside. I assure my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Wyn Roberts) that we were not thinking in terms of just a small number of fishermen. We were thinking in terms of whether or not the areas concerned were adequately protected by the base line, or whether there was a relatively small amount of fishing between the six and 12 miles. What the generalisation of existing rights means is that in those areas between six and 12 miles which we have agreed to share, there are existing historic rights which will be generalised among other members of the Community. Some members, such as Luxembourg and Italy, are perhaps unlikely ever to exercise those rights.
My hon. Friend the Member for Banff went on to deal with the complete control of conservation which we have, as a result of maintaining full jurisdiction over the whole 12 miles. That is a matter of the utmost importance, and I am sure right hon. and hon. Members have listened with interest to the speeches which have been made on the subject of policing, about which my right hon. Friend, as I told the House on 13th December, will shortly be making a further statement.
The House was also concerned about the need for increased fishery protection generally; my hon. Friends the Members for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and for Bolton, East (Mr. Laurance Reed) spoke about this matter. Great attention should be paid to what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, East, about what will happen in the next 10 years. We are not dealing with a static situation. We ourselves need a certain flexibility in this arrangement.
Sometimes the Treaty of Rome is attacked because the arrangements are permanent; and then, in a case like this, people complain because the arrangement is not permanent. But I have said time and again that we have never sought permanent arrangements. On the other hand, in a matter like this we have sought arrangements which are more than simply transitional.
Often in dealing with a number of issues in these negotiations we have been able to say "It is all right because, within a period of three, five years, or whatever it may be, we can adapt and at the end of that period we shall accept the policy as it is now." That is not what we have said on fishing. We have accepted the idea of an arrangement for a decade which is virtually the status quo—more than many people thought we were going to get, or even asked for, at an earlier stage of the negotiations—and then an open review in the circumstances of the time. And the circumstances of the time will be very different from the circumstances of today.
My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture would have been here tonight if he had not been attending a fisheries conference in Moscow which is concerned with conservation, at which ideas such as the quota, to which reference has been made in this debate, are being considered. In 1973 there will be the Conference on the Law of the Sea—and we have the arrangement with the Community for a review of conservation of the biological resources of the sea before 1979, at the latest; but we hope that it will be at the earliest practicable date. It is only after all that has taken place that we have further agreed that before the end of 1982 the enlarged Community, after studying a report on the situation then obtaining, with particular reference to the economic and social conditions of inshore areas and the state of the fish stocks, will examine the arrangements which could follow what we have negotiated for the first ten years.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman will remember that for a period of many months up to the end of last week he elevated to a high level the question of having a binding agreement which went beyond 1982. Why has he now abandoned that position and regarded that abandonment as an achievement?
If the hon. Gentleman studies carefully all I have said over the years in the course of the negotiations, he will see that I have held to the view, quite tenaciously, that we should not seek arrangements which are permanent, but on the other hand wanted something that was more than merely transitional. I made that clear on 1st December in an answer I gave to the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross).
No, I am sorry. This is my case on this and I must emphasise it. Hon. Gentlemen have made their attacks upon it. I assert that from the outset I have made clear to the Community that a transitional period, however long, would not in itself be enough. I also said that there must be provided a review which would be all-embracing, applying to the whole of our coast line, and not just to special areas, however extensive; and that it would have to take account, as I said to the right hon. Member for Kilmarnock on 1st December, of all the circumstances prevailing at the time—social, economic and the state of stocks. And that is virtually the review the Community has accepted.
We are now beginning to get on to the specific points about which we asked earlier. If I understand what the Chancellor of the Duchy is saying on the question of derogation, the open review is connected with the whole of our coastline. Does the open review extend to the possibility of changing the concept of free access in fishing up to the beaches?
It will be an open review. We could either restrict access or we could seek to extend it in the circumstances of the time. It may be, as some of my hon. Friends have said, that we will be talking in those days of more extensive limits. On the other hand we have to balance the interests of our deep-sea fishermen as well in these matters. We have to accept that over the next decade there are going to be considerable changes and that in the timetable there are a number of events—conferences and reviews—dealing particularly with conservation that are going to help determine what takes place in the review before 1982.
Would the Chancellor now do me the courtesy of attempting to answer my question which was also put by Lord Hoy in the House of Lords? Will he make a statement in this House confirming the statement made by Baroness Tweedsmuir that we would have a veto in the event of the circumstances not suiting us?
Obviously I am coming to that. We must take matters in their right order. I maintained in relation to the nature of the review, and the Community ultimately accepted it, that anything less than the open review which we sought would meet neither the anxieties nor the needs of those dependent on fishing for their livelihoods.
It is most important to remember the history of the review clause itself. This is part of the background to the argument about what happens in 1982. First, at the meeting on 29th November the Community agreed to a review but wished to limit its application. They first proposed that the review should be limited to the special areas—the 12-mile limit areas—only. If we had accepted that, we would have accepted, in effect, that in 1982, except for those special areas, we would accept the limits laid down in the fisheries regulation. I said that was not satisfactory unless they would allow 95 per cent. of our coast to be treated as a special area.
At about 11 a.m. the next day they said that they were prepared to widen the review to areas essentially dependent on fishing. They said they were prepared to add part of the coast of Scotland to the Orkneys and Shetland. This I rejected as inadequate.
There were therefore two things to settle on 11th and 12th of December: first the review clause which I said must apply generally to the whole of our coastline—that meant we must be treated as a wholly special area—and then there were the 12-mile limits.
If anyone sees the story of what we were offered first and what we secured at the end they will see we made con- siderable progress on both fronts. We started talking about Norway being a special case because Norway has a long area of coast essentially dependent upon fishing. She also has extensive 12-mile limits which she has exercised without historic rights. Norway sought to be a special case, and the Community was prepared to treat her as a special case, being dependent on fishing with virtually no hinterland.
All along, we have said that that is the wrong way to approach this matter, because people who are dependent on fishing must be considered in the context of their general economic and social conditions. It is no good telling fishermen that, because there are factories in the vicinity, they are not essentially dependent upon fishing for their livelihood. So now the whole case which was argued about areas essentially dependent upon fishing has fallen to the ground, because we have secured this open and general review.
That is why I say that there is no question of our having accepted a review clause limited to areas essentially dependent upon fishing and then falling back automatically to the beaches in respect of areas where we are prepared to concede the rights between six and 12 miles.
A certain amount of difficulty always arises in our discussions about these negotiations between the law and the practice of the Community. It is a very long argument, and I want to deal with it because it is the nub of many of the criticisms which are made. Before coming to that, however, perhaps I might make one important comment about Norway's position.
Constitutionally, Norway and her Government are responsible for the conduct of their own negotiations. That does not mean that we have not been in close touch with them throughout, nor that we are in any way unsympathetic to Norway's special position. We have never denied that Norway has a special position and is dependent upon fishing perhaps to a greater extent than the United Kingdom is in terms of total economy. But, in my view, that did not mean that Norway was entitled to very different treatment from that of the other applicant countries. We have secured a review clause which is satisfactory not only to us but to Denmark and the Republic of Ireland. I hope that it will be understood in Norway to be a pretty wide-ranging clause which should give to all the countries a fair protection. Equally, there is no reason why the Community should not be generous in regard to Norway's claims for her 12-mile limit. I am sure that none of us would wish to restrict that aspect of Norway's case in any way.
Some hon. Members have suggested that Norway may get a better offer than we have got. I hope that she will get as good an offer as any that we have received. But, assuming that the Community puts its offer in different terms, we and the other applicants will be consulted about that offer and we shall be able to make up our minds at the time.
I was glad to hear right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite making the point that we want Norway to become a full member of the Community. We can quite well afford to see generous terms accorded to Norway now that we can be quite satisfied that our own essential fishing interests are adequately safeguarded. We do not need to have the same terms as Norway, but we can be satisfied that we have comparable terms, unless something quite extraordinarily different is offered—
There are two very serious points. One is the veto, and we must come to that. The second concerns Norway. I think that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has misunderstood the charge. It is not good enough to say that we hope Norway will get good terms. The charge is that, by the agreement that we have made, we have worsened the possibility of Norway getting satisfactory arrangements.
That is not true. Norway has not yet settled with the Community. She rather indicated that she did not want to settle until we had settled ourselves. Norway has not settled the extent of her coastline to which 12-mile limits should apply, and I see no reason why that treatment could not be generous.
I come now to the effect of the review clause, about which the right hon. Member for Stepney and others have expressed anxieties. The question is how we protect our vital interests in the 1980s in the light of that review. It is no good doing what the hon. Member for Cardigan did and simply attacking the Community, as does the right hon. Member for Stepney to some extent, as being ruthless people trying to drive an unfair bargain and not to be trusted. Listening to some right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite one would not believe that we were negotiating with friends and allies, and, let us remember, friends and allies whose Community the Labour Government applied to join. Therefore, it is essential to understand, as my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Scott-Hopkins) said, the nature of the Community we are joining and the way it works in practice.
The essence of Community practice has always been to recognise the vital national interests of the countries of which it is composed, because otherwise the work of the Community would be rendered impossible and the Community would fall apart.
No one has expressed the position more clearly, with respect, than the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he was Prime Minister. On 17th November, 1966, he said:
In judging a written constitution, it is more important to examine the way in which it works and operates when it becomes a living constitution—to examine the practices which have grown up under it and the manner in which those who have to operate it do operate it, to examine the common law, as it were, rather than the statute law—than to be obsessed by perhaps literal interpretations of the original constitution and its wording.
As far as the Treaty of Rome is concerned, it is a question of convention and the way in which it has worked or looks like working, and this is of great importance for us. Four years ago, we had much less experience of these things and perhaps we could not—certainly not all of us—have foreseen that it would develop in this way.
Then again of importance—and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition quite fairly referred to this—there was the Luxembourg compromise, which was reached early this year. That is highly relevant to any assessment of how the constitution really works rather than, as I have said, basing oneself on the literal interpretation of the wording. The Luxembourg compromise is not part of the treaty, but it is of the greatest importance to anyone who seeks to examine the way in which the Community, with or without Britain, is likely to operate in future."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 17th November, 1966; Vol. 736, c. 762.]
As the right hon. Member for Stepney said—and, I think, the hon. Member for Cardigan—we have had to negotiate to join the Community as it stands. The right hon. Gentleman leader of the
Opposition used to explain that very well. Having adopted the Treaty and the procedures under it, when one is a full member one has the benefit of the common law, the Luxembourg Agreement and the rest.
The position where questions of veto are concerned is often misleading. The position was clearly stated by the Prime Minister on 24th May, following discussions with President Pompidou. The Prime Minister then said that President Pompidou and he
… were in agreement that the maintenance and strengthening of the fabric of co-operation in such a Community requires that decisions should in practice be taken by unanimous agreement when vital national interests of any one or more members are at stake."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 24th May. 1971; Vol. 818, c. 32.]
In my statement to the House on 13th December I said that I was confident that when the fair and open-ended review which we had negotiated took place, the Government of the day would continue to safeguard fisheries as a vital national interest. I went on to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East that the arrangements we had negotiated was not a suspended sentence and that we should
…be able adequately to safeguard our vital fishing interests in the future as we have safeguarded them now."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th December, 1971; Vol. 828, c. 57.]
[Interruption.] I cannot give hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions. But if, contrary to all practice and precedent, the members of the enlarged Community failed 10 years from now to reach agreement on the arrangements which could follow the present derogation—and a derogation is what it is—there would clearly be a major crisis involving the coherence of the Community itself.
This is at the heart of the matter. Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman saying that once a nation becomes a member of the Community it is then able to disregard those existing regulations and arrangements which are part of the law of the Community, if it judges that action to be best for that nation's special or vital interests? Or is he saying that the right of national veto exists only over new policy which is emerging within the Community? I hope he will answer this, because it is extremely important.
I am saying that we must draft the substance of the agreements which we have negotiated in terms which bring about our adherence to the Treaty of Rome. That often looks rather stark, and that is why the Leader of the Opposition used to say that one must look at the practice and common law; but only when one has become a full member and has accepted the obligations of the Treaty of Rome as drafted can one get the benefit of the practice and common law.
We have in effect said, "There are certain things that we can accept at once, while for some other things, such as the common agricultural policy, we require a transitional period, and at the end of that period we shall accept the C.A.P. as it is now or as it evolves in the framework of the enlarged Community." But we are not saying that we cannot deal with that in the end.
On a certain very limited number of matters we have said that we require special treatment. This applies to, for example, sugar, New Zealand and fisheries. It is against that background that we have put down a marker, as it were, on certain matters—as I say, sugar, New Zealand and fisheries—and have said that a transitional arrangement is not enough; but that we are prepared to accept that at the end of 10 years there shall be a genuine, open review, following on all the other things that have gone on in relation to conservation and so on. Then, we have said, we can look at the subject together, see what the situation looks like and see what needs to be done —remembering that it is much easier to negotiate from inside than from outside.
I do not believe that when that review comes to take place—taking part in it will be not only ourselves but Ireland, Denmark and, I hope, Norway as full members and represented also in the Commission—it will be contrary to our interests; or that the Council of Ministers will be unaware of the problems. As I have said, I do not believe that we will have a situation at that time, with all of us involved, when, after the review, there will be a cry of "Back to the beaches."
I cannot prejudge the attitude of this or any other country at that time. We cannot be sure that the countries which have now negotiated and agreed a 12-mile limit—those countries now include France, in addition to the applicants—will not desire some sort of change, perhaps an extension or a restriction. We cannot say what the views of other countries will be.
I wish finally and clearly to say that no future British Government could in practice be forced into arrangements which in their judgment failed to safeguard our vital fishing interests as they then defined them.
Before the right hon. and learned Gentleman sits down, can he say specifically whether or not the Six have, in effect, scrapped the existing common fisheries policy which they rushed through so quickly in a very obvious attempt to gain access to our waters?