Fishing Limits

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 8th July 1976.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown 12:00 am, 8th July 1976

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assumptions he has made in determining the variable width of fishing zones exclusive to United Kingdom fishermen.

Photo of Mr David James Mr David James , North Dorset

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food where he intends that the zone exclusive to United Kingdom fishermen should be as little as 12 miles wide.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

The extent of our exclusive fishing zones is a matter for negotiation with our EEC partners. We are determined to obtain a solution that meets the needs of our fishing industry.

Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown

Is the Minister aware that when he visited the inshore fishermen on the Sussex coast they felt that he understood their case, and indeed they took to him as an individual and were grateful for the time he gave to them? However, is he also aware that those same men now feel betrayed—and that this feeling applies to the inshore fishing fleet not only in Sussex but in every other part of the country? Its members feel that they are in a desperate situation, and want to know what action the Minister intends to take to help the inshore fishing fleet.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I appreciate the compliments paid to me by the hon. Gentleman. I found the two dozen visits that I made to the fishing industry extremely helpful, and I am glad to hear that they were appreciated by the fishermen. I must emphasise that the interests of the inshore and deep sea fishermen are linked. The hon. Gentleman will be aware that consultations are now taking place with the industry.

Photo of Mr James Johnson Mr James Johnson , Kingston upon Hull West

Is the Minister aware that last evening the charming editor of the Icelandic newspaper Morgunbladid telephoned me asking about legislation being prepared in Whitehall on these limits. Will he give me an answer on that topic, since I could not answer such a question last night? Furthermore has he seen the map that I now have in my hand, published last week in the Scotsman? That map is alleged to be the basis of discussions concerning a 50, 35 or 12-mile limit off the coasts of the United Kingdom. Will he comment on that map?

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I would not like to answer as to the truth or otherwise of Press and media speculation. I am aware of the map published in the Scotsman. I also notice that in some newspapers there has been talk of a retreat. The fact is, as we have said, that we have been looking at key areas beyond the 12 miles limit and have found that many are within 35 and all are within 50 miles. That remains our position. What matters is not just the limits but the availability of the catch, species, and marketing prospects. At the end of the day we want to make sure that our industry has the kind of access that will enable it to be viable.

Photo of Mr Donald Stewart Mr Donald Stewart , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

Is the Minister aware that the failure of the Tory Government in the original negotiations to secure a decent agreement, and the failure of the Labour Government even to put the topic of fishing on the agenda in the renegotiations, has meant a complete sell-out? If the limits suggested in the Scotsman have any bearing on the Govment's position, it will be regarded as the grossest betrayal and will be bitterly opposed in Scotland.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I am well aware of the failure of the Conservative Government to negotiate a fishing policy to help us in the future. The fact remains that in the present situation other Community members may take the view that they can fish up to our shores. This is a difficult position to retrieve. The way in which the Government are now proceeding has general support and, indeed, is being received with toleration and cooperation in the Community. When the hon. Gentleman talks about failure of Labour policies he should remember that we have not by any means yet finished our negotiations.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

Will the Minister stop talking such humbug about the original negotiations on a common fishing policy having failed? If he persists, he must say why the Labour Government did not negotiate the subject when they first came into power.

Photo of Mr Edward Bishop Mr Edward Bishop , Newark

I am sure that the House appreciates that the Government conducted a wide range of negotiations and put the situation to the country in a referendum—[Interruption.] The fact remains that the country has accepted continued membership of the EEC. We are now having to retrieve a situation left to us by the Conservative Government.