Since early February, ships of the Fishery Protection Squadron have been maintaining a continuous presence of between one and three ships off the coast of Northumberland. During this time some eight foreign fishing vessels have been arrested and subsequently convicted for fishing offences. Over £3,000 in fines and costs have been awarded in addition to confiscations of gear and catches, valued at about £7,000.
Is it not to be regretted that this information was not available to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster when he was on the Continent negotiating the fisheries agreement? The imposition of a six-mile limit on the stretch of coast mentioned in my Question clearly indicates that in that area, as well as on the rest of the East Coast, there should at least be a 12-mile limit for fishery areas, which contain a number of valuable herring and salmon grounds?
I do not know how the hon. Gentleman draws that conclusion from my answer. What should be drawn from my answer is the fact that an efficient fishery protection service is maintained along the coastline.
Mr. Bob Brown:
In view of the large number of arrests in recent times in this area, and bearing in mind the disgraceful sell-out of north-east coast fishermen by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, would the right hon. Gentleman not agree that when we enter the E.E.C. we shall need a bit of gunboat diplomacy in that area if our fishermen are to eke out any kind of living?
I am not sure that I would echo the hon. Gentleman's phrase "gunboat diplomacy" as being a desirable objective. What is important is that there should be an efficient fishery protection service, and by 1st January, 1973, we shall have increased the number of minesweepers available for fishery protection duties from six to eight. We are also acquiring a fast patrol boat, "Tenacity". We intend to make further use of Royal Navy and Royal Air Force helicopter services which will be of great assistance in improving fishery protection.
On a point of order. In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall seek to raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.
asked the Minister of State for Defence if he will make a statement on the additional fisheries protection measures needed on the Northumberland coast, particularly in the area from Coquet Island to Berwick-on-Tweed, as a result of the fisheries agreement conditional on Great Britain's entry into the European Economic Community.
I would refer the hon. Member to the Reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Haltemprice (Mr. Wall), on 20th January which announced that we shall be increasing by about 50 per cent. the effort currently deployed by the Services on coastal fishery protection. This increased effort will become part of the total Services fishery protection effort and will be deployed, in the light of fishing activity at the time, to cover the coastal waters of the United Kingdom, including the Northumberland coast.—[Vol. 829, c. 651–2.]
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that that answer is to be even more deplored than his answer to my previous Question on the same subject? Is he aware that this extra Government expenditure for the British taxpayer on fisheries protection vessels is made necessary because the fisheries agreement was not concluded with the Six until this House has decided on principle to enter the European Economic Community?
I thought that my previous answer, which announced a substantial increase in the strength of the Fishery Protection Service, had been generally welcomed in the House and the country.
Is the noble Lord aware that any defence protection here could be minuscule compared with the possible eventuality in the North-East Atlantic and Icelandic waters? Would he turn his mind to the need for defence and protection measures after 1st September, in the unhappy event that our fishermen are then fishing within the 50-mile limits?
I will certainly consider that point, but the hon. Gentleman will appreciate that what I have announced is an increase of 50 per cent. in the effectiveness of the Fishery Protection Service.