I beg to move,
That this House approves the Agreement on the Common Fisheries Policy reached at the Council of Fisheries Ministers meeting on 25th January 1983.
I am delighted at last to be able to propose such a motion to the House after many years of negotiation by successive Governments and nearly four years when I and my right hon. Friends the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Minister of State in my Department have been responsible for those negotiations. I welcome the opportunity to debate this question because it gives me the chance to put into perspective the background of our fishing industry and to bring up to date the concept of what that fishing industry is likely to be about in the years ahead. As a result of the agreement there should be stability and confidence for the fishing industry, which have been lacking for a considerable time. I welcome that because if we are involved in negotiations in which our objective is to obtain the best terms available for Britain's industry we must be aware of the fact that any pronouncements made on the overall situation in the industry might affect our negotiating position.
I shall put into perspective the recent history and the current condition of our fishing industry. Over the past 15 years two factors have had a dramatic effect on the industry. One was was the loss of our fishing rights in Icelandic waters, which finally departed from us in 1975–76, when after a period of considerable friction it was decided that Iceland should be given a 200-mile exclusive fishing zone in its own waters, to the considerable loss of our long distance fishing fleet.
The other factor of great importance has been overfishing. Fishermen throughout Europe, including at times British fishermen, have fished so much that the stocks have been substantially diminished. Herring stocks have virtually disappeared. There is no doubt that during that period the fishing industry has recognised the immense importance to its future of having sensible conservation policies properly enforced throughout the fishing waters of Europe.
That is the general background, against which serious problems and anxieties have been created for our industry. In 1973, during the negotiations to join the European Community, Europe agreed upon the nature of the fishing policy that it wished to pursue, which would bring conservation, quotas and enforcement to all the waters enjoyed by the European Community. There has been criticism of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sidcup (Mr. Heath) and of my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Hexham (Mr. Rippon) because of the terms of the fishing agreement and its effect. Few hon. Members can afford to join in such criticism—certainly not the leaders of political parties. The Liberal party supported that negotiation and agreement. In 1974 the Labour party decided to renegotiate the terms of our membership of the European Community, but it decided positively and completely not to mention fishing in the renegotiation.
I am saying that that agreement had the support of the Conservative and Liberal parties at that time and that, when the Labour party decided to renegotiate the terms of our entry to Europe, it decided to accept those conditions. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the Labour party thought that the terms were bad, it is an immense criticism of his party and Government that they decided not to mention them at all in the renegotiation. Therefore, his party must be criticised. When it said that it would put to the country in a referendum the renegotiated terms for Europe, it had decided not to raise the fishing terms in the renegotiations. That is clear.
The other factor, which partly comes into the amendment tabled by the Opposition, is the argument that as other countries went for a 200-mile limit, that would provide Britain with up to 60 per cent. of the fishing stocks of Europe and that the negotiations should have been about obtaining that 60 per cent. of the stocks. There are some serious questions about that attitude. The first is whether 60 per cent. is accurate. It is less than that. The 60 per cent. did not allow for all the fish enjoyed by Denmark and other countries in Scandinavian waters.
The reality is that if the United Kingdom, instead of demanding anything like the historic proportion of Europe's fish that it had caught, demanded a 200-mile limit and 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of Europe's fish, that would mean the massive destruction of the fishing industries of most of our friends and partners in western Europe. The Labour party may think that that is reasonable. It might consider saying to Denmark, France, Ireland, Germany, Holland and Belgium, "We will take from you the 30 per cent., 40 per cent., or 50 per cent. of your traditional fishing", which it would consider reasonable and in the interests of our fishing industry. However, if that were the view of the Labour party—it is the view of the Labour party—it would have to answer for the fact that the Labour Government extended the 200-mile limit. The Labour Government, in agreement with their European colleagues, decided to go for a 200-mile limit in European waters. When they made that decision, they did not make it a condition of that decision having any share of the quota of fish.
In none of those things did she say that the British Government should have 45 per cent., 50 per cent. or 60 per cent. of the fishing quotas.
The then Foreign Secretary, now one of the leaders of the Social Democratic party, went to The Hague and signed agreements on the extension of the British 200-mile limit. While doing so, unlike, for example, the Irish Government, he did not demand any guaranteed quotas of fish for the United Kingdom. Therefore, any negotiating position on extending the 200-mile limit was given away long before this Government came to office.
Looking at the announcement that was made in the House at the time, one sees that no Labour Member of Parliament representing fishing interests made any criticism. Therefore, the argument, repeated in the amendment, that because of our 200-mile limit we should obtain the quotas of fish that are within the limit was one that the Labour party had no right to argue.
With respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I thought that he would have recognised the wording in our amendment. It is not really our amendment, but a direct quotation from the Prime Minister that he is rejecting. It was she who said that we required an adequate exclusive zone and
a further considerable area of preferential access".
That has been thrown out of the window. It was the Prime Minister who said that our waters
contain more fish than the rest of the Community put together".
The right hon. Lady said that our quotas should reflect that. I gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for at least recognising the "leaderene's" words.
On a point order, Mr. Speaker. During his argument the Secretary of State mentioned a signature to a document which the Government and the Community have not been prepared to provide to the House. It would be most helpful if we could see the terms of annex 7 of The Hague agreement to know what was signed by the now deputy leader of the Social Democratic party.
During the three years that followed the previous Government's signing of that agreement, the then Minister responsible for fishing, any of his junior Ministers—some of whom are here today—or the then Secretary of State for Scotland could have made that signed agreement available.
In 1979 the Government inherited a position wherein the previous Government had not just signed away the 200-mile limit without any return, but had negotiated for three and a half years on a common fisheries policy and had failed to obtain any reasonable quotas or reasonable proposals on access, enforcement and restructuring. I inherited a common fisheries policy agreed by eight countries in Europe with quotas, access and enforcement proposals which were unacceptable to Great Britain.
There was an agreement between the eight other member countries. They had a meeting in Berlin at which the British Minister did not turn up. He therefore allowed, without dispute, the eight countries in Europe to agree on a basis of quotas and access which was totally unacceptable to the British Government.
I have recited those facts because few people negotiating a fisheries agreement for Great Britain could have inherited a worse or more difficult position. That is why I made it clear during my initial talks with the fishing industry that I would not come to any agreement during the prolonged negotiations unless the three major fishing organisations approved that agreement. I also made it clear that we would provide the necessary national aid to our fishing industry to ensure that it was in a condition to take advantage of any suitable agreement that could be obtained.
I wish to give a factual analysis and comment about what has happened to the size of the fleet in recent years.
Before the Secretary of State leaves the point on the agreement of the fishing organisations and his determination not to accept an agreement except with their agreement, were not they placed in exactly the same position as the Minister? They were boxed in by time. Unless they agreed to the Minister's proposals in December, they were faced with the fact that he would not promise them protection if they went it alone. They had a pistol at their heads. That is what they have said during the past four weeks.
What the hon. Gentleman has said is untrue. The quotas, the access arrangements, security of stocks and the enforcement that the fishing industry will have compared with what it had in the past are in the interests of the industry. That is why all three organisations have approved the agreement. The Opposition's great regret is that we have an agreement suitable to the fishing industry.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I understood the right hon. Gentleman, somewhat earlier, to be referring to and basing his arguments upon an international document to which this country was a party, which is alleged not to have been laid before the House or to be available to hon. Members. If that is a correct understanding, Mr. Speaker, would you rule upon whether that is in order?
I shall be delighted, Mr. Speaker, if you in any way criticise the previous Government's failure to make available documents which are seemingly now required by the Labour party.
It is important to keep the size of the British fishing industry in perspective. I have recited the difficulty about the Icelandic waters. There has been a substantial reduction in the larger vessels in the British fleet.
I shall put it into the correct perspective. During the period 1974 to 1979 the number of vessels over 80 ft were reduced from 455 to 272. That is a reduction of 183 such vessels during the previous Government's period in office. The latest available figures show that the fleet has decreased by a further 27 vessels. I mention those facts because the Opposition have declared their interest in fishing. Therefore, one would have at least considered that, during a period of such a dramatic drop and difficulties for certain ports, Government aid to the industry would have been at its highest instead of its lowest. During the period 1979 to 1981, while the long distance fleet has been reduced by a further 27 vessels, the inshore fleet has increased by 136 vessels. The latest available figures show that we have the greatest number of fishing vessels for a decade. Again, on the latest figures available, the number of people employed in the fishing industry is a 10-year high.
I state those figures because one of the problems about the public's concept of the fishing industry is that, whenever journalists or the media wish to comment about the fishing industry, they visit Hull, which has borne the biggest burden of the reduction in the number of larger vessels. The greatest reduction in the number of vessels took place before this Government took office. Since then, other fishing areas have expanded considerably. The expansion at Peterhead and at places such as Bridlington and Scarborough has been very substantial. Although it has many problems, Grimsby, too, has expanded substantially during these years.
Every port is not full of rusting vessels. In the past three years the number of vessels has increased and the number of people employed in the fishing industry has not been reduced. One of the main reasons for that is that this Government decided that in the period of uncertainty during the fisheries negotiations they would provide substantial aid to the industry. The aid that I injected into the industry was not only to take into account financial losses that the industry overall might make, but for the servicing of the substantial capital expenditure that the industry had made in new vessels.
On obtaining the agreement, the situation is not of a fishing industry being forced into decline with ports full of rusting vessels. It has had to go through the very painful process of losing long distance fishing in Icelandic waters, but it has taken advantage of the opportunities that exist in nearer waters. The proposals agreed in the Community give the industry a firm foundation.
I wish now to consider various aspects referred to in the amendment and the fundamental parts of the agreement. Basically, we have quotas that are above our historic catch in the years 1973 to 1978. At the end of their amendment, the Opposition mention the lack of compensation for our loss of fishing opportunities in third country waters such as Iceland, but, by any measure, the compensation is substantial.
For example, taking the figures in 1970, before the erosion caused by our loss of Icelandic waters, in non-Icelandic—that is, European—waters we were obtaining 33·7 per cent. of the European quota. Overall, including our third country waters, we were catching 38·7 per cent. Instead of 33·7 per cent. of the European quota that we obtained in European waters, in the negotiations we have moved to a position where we now have 37·3 per cent. That reflects how we have considerably succeeded in getting the Community to understand the real problems of the British fishing industry in the loss of those waters.
The achievement of 37 per cent. must be seen against the total of 60 per cent. of fishing within British waters inside what may be called Community waters. The rough estimates that I have done show the difference between the two to be fish to the value of almost £100 million. Once again we are paying for the privilege of joining the Community, and we are paying more than it is costing the Community to reconstruct all the European fleets.
That is an absurd argument. No Government—certainly no Labour Government—could go into a negotiation where they claimed, first, that it would violate all of the London convention rights that they had entered into and, secondly, that it would reduce the fishing industries of all our allies in Europe by 30 per cent.
Yes. To do what the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) suggests would be to say to France, Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Ireland that we would take away 30 to 40 per cent. of their historic fishing. What does the hon. Gentleman suggest would be the reaction? If we caught that 60 per cent.—I hasten to add that we do not have the vessels to do so—
If we caught that 60 per cent., where does the hon. Gentleman suggest that we would sell the catch? The fish would all previously have been caught and sold in Europe. By that action we would just be taking it away. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that any Government in the foreseeable future would tell our closest allies in the Western world that we were moving our fishing limits to destroy their fishing industries? The hon. Gentleman knows that that would not happen. That is one of the great myths created as the background to the negotiations. I am glad to have the opportunity to say so.
I repeat, if the hon. Gentleman and the Labour Government believed that, they were in the negotiating position to carry it out. The Labour Government extended the 200-mile limit. They decided, probably correctly, that that was not a feasible way to treat our closest allies. If, by some strange chance, the Labour party gained power and withdrew Britain from the Community, would they tell their fellow Socialist, President Mitterrand of France, that there would be a 200-mile limit to destroy his fishing industry? Would they tell the Social Democrats in Denmark, who complained that the agreement is already far too biased towards the British, that they would take away half the Danish fishing industry? That is absurd.
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If I catch your eye, I should like to develop the argument, but the Minister has again referred to an agreement that the Labour Administration are supposed to have agreed, which is in appendix 7 of The Hague agreement. We cannot continue the debate on a matter that has lot been seen by hon. Members.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. It might be useful if I intervened. The appendix is becoming a major issue. It has been referred to several times. The annex has not been published. It has been mentioned for the first time today in connection with this problem. It was mentioned once before by the Prime Minister in a letter to me and it could not be discovered then. The Government rest their legal case on annex 7. We should see the document before we proceed further.
Order. I am now in a position to give a positive reply to the point of order raised by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). There is no need for the Minister to lay the document before the House. He is not at liberty to read or quote from the document at the Dispatch Box, and he has not done so he has only referred to it.
Further to that point of order, Mr. Speaker. Thank you for the ruling, but in many ways it makes the situation more difficult. You have correctly said that the Minister cannot quote from the document. The trouble is that he rests his defence on it without quoting from it. He should do both or neither.
If we look at the quotas that have been obtained, we see that not only are they substantially above the historic fishing levels in the years of the Labour Government but they are the quotas that our fishermen require and, due to the new conservation measures, the quotas that will give a substantial future to our fishing industry.
The best that came forward from Europe, after three and a half years of negotiation by the Labour party, were access proposals that would have retained all the historic rights of the Treaty of Accession and of the London convention without any improvement whatsoever. Now we have obtained almost an elimination of the Treaty of Accession historic rights, a substantial reduction of some of the London convention rights and very important rights in the six to 12-mile limits of other countries. That is not only a remarkable improvement on anything obtained previously, but it provides British fishermen with a greater domination in their own territorial waters than they have ever before enjoyed.
In addition, the Shetland box creates a unique opportunity in European waters that is welcomed by those who primarily fish in those rich waters. There is substantial improvement on access, and British fishermen have an opportunity such as they have never previously enjoyed.
One of the important achievements for our fishermen is that, at last, a proper system of enforcement will apply to all countries—not only to the United Kingdom. We negotiated that we should be responsible for enforcement in our territorial waters, and that is right. We shall ensure that that enforcement is carried out well and effectively. At last we have an inspectorate that can examine any other country to ensure that it complies with the conservation and quota arrangements. All the countries within the Community will be subject to proper enforcement of the rules.
How can the Minister make such positive assertions about enforcement when we have seen enforcement measures fail miserably?
Even when our own fishery protection service is doing its best, it leaves much to be desired. How can the Minister be so positive that enforcement will work satisfactorily?
That is my point. In the past, we have not had an agreement and therefore there has been no inspectorate to ensure enforcement. Although we have tried to ensure enforcement, other countries have failed to do so. Scottish fishermen welcome the agreement because there is a regulation on enforcement, drafted by the Government, that will provide an effective system of enforcement.
A matter of great importance for the future is that our industry can now restructure and modernise its fleet to take advantage of the considerable opportunities. Part of the agreement provides for substantial sums to be made available during the next three years for reconstruction. The Government's objective is to enter into talks and negotiations with all sides of the British industry to see how best it can take advantage of that opportunity and to reach agreement on the policies that both the Government and the industry need to pursue in order to achieve sensible restructuring in the years ahead.
In his talks on restructuring, will the Minister include discussions with those sections of the fleet, especially the distant water fleet, that have already been driven to the wall during the long 10 years of negotiations? Will the Minister examine more favourably than did the Labour Government the possibility of redundancy payments for those who have already been driven out of the industry?
Redundancy is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. Since he was connected with the Labour party at the time, the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) knows that the Labour Government examined the matter and decided that there was not a scheme that they could put forward at that time.
It is not true that the Labour Government refused a redundancy agreement. I shall outline that matter in my speech. They did agree to a scheme and the Treasury gave money to a redundancy agreement that arose out of the Icelandic fishing agreement. I wish to correct that point which the Minister made in his statement.
My remark was based on the fact that I recently met a delegation from the TGWU. The union told me how it had negotiated with the Labour Government and failed to obtain an appropriate agreement, although it believed that various Ministers were in favour of one. I take it that that suggestion made by the union was wrong.
I was not a member of that Labour Government. I am not here to make a special plea, but I must tell the Minister that my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) is right. The Minister himself said that he understood that Labour Ministers were sympathetic. The truth is that that agreement was never finalised. It reached the point where it might have and should have been finalised, but it was not because of lack of agreement from the Government. Before the election, the trade unions still had not finalised their views. I know the history of the matter, and I presume that that was what the Minister meant when he said that Labour Ministers were sympathetic.
I understand why the hon. Gentleman, when it comes to fishing, claimed that he was not a member of the previous Government. I am willing to accept any suggestions about what took place. I can speak only from experience of a meeting that I had a week ago, when I was asked to examine the matter. I rightly said that it was a matter for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment—it is his sphere of responsibility —and I gather that proposals and suggestions are now being made.
Another sphere that is of great importance to our industry is marketing. There is scope for considerable improvement by our industry in the marketing of fish, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. I do not mean that it would be right for Governments to pour large sums of money into vague advertising campaigns for fish. If we are to succeed in that sphere, we need to ensure that, from the time when the fish are landed to the time of delivery to the appropriate customer, the industry plays its part in substantially improving quality control, presentation and distribution of fish, both in the United Kingdom and abroad. There is considerable scope for the industry, and I should be only too pleased to consider with the industry ways in which that can be achieved.
I express my appreciation of those who, during the past three and a half years, have patiently and constructively taken part in the negotiations. The industry has not only attended every meeting, but has discussed our entire strategy of negotiation and given much constructive advice. From the beginning, the industry has been willing to share responsibility for deciding whether an agreement was in the industry's interests. I pay tribute to the leaders of all three of the organisations concerned, both past and present, for their role in the discussions during the past three and a half years.
I thoroughly endorse words said in the House about the role played by my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. His role has been substantial and has been widely appreciated by the industry generally. Any Minister who has had the privilege of working for many hours with the leaders of such an industry comes to appreciate the qualities of those who work in it.
The British fisherman is remarkable. He is a man of immense independence and great courage who has with great fortitude put up with the uncertainties of the past 10 to 15 years. I welcome the fact that we now have an agreement that has the industry's support and provides security far into the next century as well as potential for growth of the industry. I commend the agreement to the House, and I know that it is in the interests of the industry.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'declines to approve a Common Fisheries Policy agreement which fails to secure an adequate exclusive zone, a further considerable area of preferential access and quotas which fully reflect the fact that our waters contain more fish than the rest of the Community put together, and further fails to compensate the United Kingdom industry for the loss of fishing opportunities in third country waters.'
It gives me immense pleasure to move the amendment because most of the words come from the Prime Minister and the Tory party manifesto. I merely wish the Government to pay attention and, perhaps, obey some of their own words.
I was surprised by the tone taken by the Minister. The content of his speech was highly contentious and irritable. His tone was very far removed from the benign presence with which he favoured us last week when he was having cocktail parties and uttering the word "superb".
It is possible that the Minister has a hangover, but perhaps the feelings of the fishing organisations have made the Minister realise that the word "superb" is hardly appropriate. It was the kind of press management that we saw last week in relation to the report on Argentina, and that we are now about to see with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament—replacing actuality with promises and cocktail parties.
It would have been infinitely better had we had this discussion before the settlement—something for which we pressed before Christmas. Indeed, the Danes achieved that. It is monstrous that the Government, because of the inadequacy of the treaties that they signed and the material that they put before the House, found themselves tied to a 10-year term whereby they had to reach an agreement by the end of the day or open up our waters, and then reached the agreement without reference back to the British Parliament.
The Danes had the right to express their views on the agreement in their Parliament. We, too, should have had that opportunity and also the opportunity to express the views of the industry. It would have been infinitely better had the views of the industry been conveyed on the Floor of the House so that we could have achieved a greater degree of truth about the nature of the agreement.
The issue is vital to the well-being of the industry, to thousands of fishermen and to scores of local communities throughout the United Kingdom. A debate would lave put into perspective the ridiculous over-sell of the agreement. I must say, in as low a key as possible, that it is a bad agreement—whether Britain is part of the EC, or outside it. The Government cannot call it a good agreement when the Prime Minister herself told us that any agreement had to take on board the fact that most of the fish were within our waters.
Our quota, when two-thirds of the fish is in our waters, has been reduced to one-third. I do not necessarily want to keep all of it, but it could have been used for proper bilateral agreements. Our quota is now just under half of what the waters would have given us in different circumstances. It is hardly a good agreement, even within the EC, in the context of the aims and expressed intentions of the Conservative party. Its expressed intention, throughout a long period, was the desire for a 12-mile exclusive limit. We do not have that. Most of the waters around England and Wales—we have done better in Scotland—have a six-mile exclusive limit. The wish for a 12-mile limit has gone out of the window.
The Prime Minister strongly hammered one crucial point when she visited Aberdeen during the general election—it is known as the Chatham syndrome in politics. Why did she say that she was a friend of the fishermen? When she was in Aberdeen on 26 April 1979 she said:
Fishermen will find a true and determined friend in the next Conservative Government"—
Conservative Members should have tried to say that to the fishermen to whom I spoke during the weekend. The Prime Minister also said:
our negotiating aims will be for … an adequate exclusive zone
Does the Minister really beleve that, with various countries establishing a 200-mile limit, a six-mile exclusive limit for England and Wales is adequate? It is nonsense. The right hon. Lady further said—and this Conservative Members cannot avoid—that another aim was
A further considerable area of preferential access".
The Government confirmed that as recently as 15 July in a motion that they put before the House—just six months before the sell-out. Their motion then referred to
the need to secure an exclusive 12-mile limit,"—
that has gone in the surrender—
preference outside 12 miles to protect particularly dependent fishing communities".—[Official Report, 15 July 1982; Vol. 27 c. 1183.]
The Government's specific promises, framed within a motion in the House, have been surrendered. Yet they dare to use the word "superb". It is nonsense, and should be seen to be so.
The agreement must be judged against such promises. It must be judged also against the possibilities that would be available to our hard-pressed industry were we outside the EC and able to control our destinies. The Minster might recall our discussions 10 years ago. He was on my side then. I do not recall accusing him of being one of the marketeers.
I am sorry if I am wrong. A man may often be wrong, but not as consistently wrong as that! There were sufficient warnings of the problem that we would face. No one can blame the Labour party then for failing to warn about the position in which we would find ourselves when negotiating an agreement which, if we failed to give other contries what they wanted, would leave them fishing up to our beaches.
We must consider not only my view of the issue but the views of the fishermen—those whom the Minister said have given him full support. He said so less fulsomely today than on previous occasions. I remember that he once described them as virtually standing on their seats and cheering. Yet I know that the fishermen have reacted not with enthusiasm but with relief because of their intense fear that they would have something even worse. Despite the promise in the Tory manifesto that if they did not secure an agreement they would take independent action to preserve our interests, the Minister made it clear to the fishermen that he was not prepared to do that. If there was no agreement, he would not guarantee them policing and protection.
The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation have said that it was clearly spelt out to them that there was no means of giving them adequate policing and protection without an agreement. Indeed, the Minister himself has said that. Despite the Minister's words, the reaction of the fishermen was relief rather than enthusiasm.
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that, in a reply to a question that I put to him, my right hon. Friend made it clear that if there was no agreement the Government would not allow fishing up to our beaches and would take unilateral action?
I am sure that I have also said that. No Government would dare to allow fishing up to our beaches. That was never an option. The option concerned what would happen to the quotas and what would happen within the Shetland box and the 12-mile limit. Not even the Tory Government expected fishing up to the beaches.
The chairman of the SFF, Mr. Willie Hay, said:
If we had had a superb agreement we would have had a 200 mile limit and as much fish as we can catch. But if you put it into the context of the disaster which could have befallen us"—
the failure to give proper protection—
the agreement is not too bad at this time.
Conservative Members can call that fulsome approval if they wish, but it does not appear that way to me.
It so happens that an hour before I arrived at the House I received an official letter from the SFF, which said that its members wished
to congratulate you most warmly on the conclusion of the Common Fisheries Policy negotiations earlier this week and to say how very much we have appreciated and admired your great skill, leadership and sterling resolve in bringing about a settlement.
I have observed that problem. Rightly or wrongly, I have advised some of the organisations that it is sometimes easier to split than unite. They have a common enemy in the Government and they should come together.
The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations wrote to me saying:
As you appreciate, it is our view that the agreement may be considered"—
that is a very temperate paragraph and I have no disagreement with it; I understand exactly what it is saying in this context—
the best realistically attainable within the Community, given the terms of the Treaty of Accession.
That is the crucial sentence. The terms of the Treaty of Accession are the reason why we are in this position.
The letter continues:
However, it must be recognised that the settlement falls considerably short of the justifiable objectives of the industry." The author is saying that the Minister did his best in a bad situation. The deal is neither superb nor does it meet the needs of the industry.
The promises of the Prime Minister and the Minister had been clear enough. The Minister said on 14 February 1980:
We need an adequate exclusive zone … and we need an area of preferential access beyond that.
The Minister went on to say:
In our discussions with the Commissioner we shall be arguing strongly that in framing the quotas he must take into account Britain's geographical position, our historical position and the loss of fishing that we have already sustained in third country waters. Only on that basis will fair and reasonable quotas acceptable to the Government be agreed."—[Official Report, 14 February 1980; Vol. 978, c. 1780–82.]
He has gone without the 12 miles; he has gone without the 50 miles. Where is the recognition of the loss of third country waters? He claims to have moved out some of the historic rights between the six and the 12 miles. Is that the recognition?
We were negotiating from a position of weakness. The fishermen recognise that. That is what Mr. Atkins referred to in his letter, when he spoke of
the best realistically attainable within the Community, given the terms of the Treaty of Accession".
The position was weak for two reasons. First, time was running out as we had been warning. The hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) said that the Government had reached half an hour to midnight and time was running out. The other reason was that the law was not necessarily on their side, and they were not prepared to challenge it. Whatever brilliance the Minister displayed, he was negotiating from an impossible position.
Annex VII has been mentioned. The truth about annex VII is that in the Official Journal of the European Communities, dated 19 October 1981, a question was put down by Miss Quin, a Labour Member in Europe, and the answer she received was:
The Council considers that a decision to publish the Annexes is entirely out of the question since they contain material which it would be most inappropriate to publish.
That was called in aid to help us to make up our minds in relation to the agreement. We are told by the European Community that we are not to see it. Where is the independence of action of the Government? Why are they not protesting about this? Why are they not publishing it? It was passed to the European Community, as was our control over our waters.
The position was weak legally. The Minister was saying that, as long as the Commission gave its imprimatur to the deal, that would make it legal. At the same time as he was saying that, the Prime Minister was saying that in theory other nations could fish up to our beaches. I wrote and asked the Prime Minister why there was this contradiction between her and the Minister. The Minister was saying that the Commission could give the agreement legal force, and she was saying that in theory they could fish up to the beaches. In her answer to me, she gave the most extraordianary explanation, and this is why the Government were in a weak position legally. She said:
Dear Mr. Buchan,
Thank you for your letter of 8 December. We need to distinguish between legal theory and the actual legal situation.
I would like to hear her defending in the Court of Appeal before Lord Denning. She claimed that the situation was taken care of in annex VII of The Hague agreement. That speaks of the need to regulate fishing activities in a coastal belt.
My understanding is that annex VII relates to two problems affecting Ireland, and the third is in relation to the problem of small local communities. It is both a secret and a gentleman's agreement. The Government had no legal basis behind them in the negotiations. Given the time factor, the legal position they were faced with and the lack of will to go it alone—as they promised in their manifesto—the Government produced the best deal attainable—a thoroughly bad deal.
The Minister also referred to the problems that are still remaining within this agreement, and the special measures concerning it. I wish to deal with the mysterious factor of the 20,000 tonnes of mackerel and the 2,000 tonnes of cod. The Minister claims that there is no possibility of the Commission proposing any arrangement to allow the Danes to get mackerel from our waters if they fail to get the 20,000 tonnes elsewhere. The Minister says he would veto any such proposal. At the same time, Henning Grove, the Danish Fisheries Minister, said:
we are guaranteed 20,000 tonnes of mackerel for an indefinite period. If we cannot get this from third countries we would have to get it from somewhere else.
If the Minister looks at the initial regulation proposal to establish a system of conservation and management of resources—7954/82—he will see that there has been a change in the unnumbered resolution referred to in the Order Paper and dated 26 October. It is a curiously sinister change. Included under article 11 are the measures that relate to various articles that can be decided by a qualified majority. For the first time in this unnumbered document referred to in the motion, paragraph 4.1 is included in what has to be decided by a qualified majority. Paragraph 4.1 refers to the volume of catches available to the Community, referred to in article 3, being distributed between member states in a manner ensures that each member state relative stability. For the first time that distribution between member states is to be carried out by qualified majority. That is precisely the problem with which we are dealing in relation to the 2,000 tonnes of cod and the 20,000 tonnes of mackerel. The redistribution, if it does not come from third countries, will be on the basis of a qualified majority. I hope that the Minister cam answer that point. Where is the Minister's veto on this matter? Is he sure that he can prevent both an allocation of that mackerel and Danish fishing off our west coast"
The document states that the cod agreement will end in three years. Although it is 2,000 tonnes of cod in general, that reduces the quota of cod that we are entitled to get. Can the Minister use a veto there? The NFFO believes that other countries could use up their quotas of whiting and plaice after nine months. But at that time, under the review clauses, is there any means of ensuring that those countries are not allocated further tonnages? I hope that those fears can be laid to rest, because the inclusion of paragraph 4.1, referring to the qualified majority, adds strength to the fears.
The Shetland box is very important. To their credit, Conservative Members wish to see preferential treatment for the Shetland box. However, during the period of concessions, as time was running out, the box was reduced by about 6 per cent. But that, too, must be reviewed, and how stands the veto there? I am worried about that because section 2 of the paper refers to the conservation measures necessary to achieve the aims set out in relation to each species or group of species. Section 2 also mentions a qualified majority decision. If it affects the Shetland box, we have reason to be worried. The NFFO says that the agreement, far from being watertight, secure and stable, as the Minister claimed, and despite its words of thanks for his skilful negotiation, believes that it still remains "shrouded in doubt"
No one would deny that the best form of policing of waters is single-nation policing. If we could exercise control over 200 miles, we would have much more secure policing than we have with the present Community policing, especially in an epoch of industrial fishing and purse nets. The only way we can secure that—the Minister might consider this—is to ensure perhaps mixed crews on inspection boats in each state's waters. That may help. It is a serious matter that must be dealt with.
The Minister said that there was no decline in the fishing industry. We must measure that against the possibilities that were open, and especially against the loss of Icelandic waters. I, too, will quote some figures. In 1970, 975,000 tonnes of fish were landed by British vessels at United Kingdom ports. In 1981, 745,000 tonnes were landed. That represents a decline since 1970 of 23·6 per cent. The Minister said that much of the decline took place under the Labour Government. But that is the gravamen of our argument. I accept that the Labour Government also failed to renegotiate this problem in 1974. They were faced with the Common Market problem and future deadlines. We are not shirking the matter and saying that the problem was caused by any Government. It was caused by the Common Market agreement and the initial negotiation.
Of course. I am referring to the Minister's reference to a decline, which he attributed to the Labour Government. The hon. Lady is a Daniel come to judgment. She is absolutely right. It was caused, first, by the Common Market and, secondly, by the loss of Icelandic waters. But that is not what the Minister said.
In 1970, the deep water fleets had 161 trawlers that were more than 140 ft. long. There are now 34. That means that for every five trawlers measuring more than 140 ft. in 1970, today there is only one. One can see the effect on Humberside. At Fleetwood there were 33 trawlers measuring more than 110 ft. but now there are 11. At Grimsby there were 101 trawlers and there are now 22. At Hull there were 93 trawlers and now there are 26. I visited Lowestoft at the weekend and met representatives of all sections of the industry, especially the trawler owners—Boston among others—and they told me that 10 years ago there were 120 boats in the middle water fleet whereas now there are only 30.
We must add to those factors the age of the fleet. Out of 245 vessels measuring more than 80 ft., 150 were 10 years old or more. In the inshore fleet of England and Wales, in 1980 about half of the 969 vessels were more than 25 years old and only 13 per cent. were under 10 years old. The position is rather better in Scotland. Out of 1,000 boats in the inshore fleet, only 20 per cent. are more than 25 years old, but fewer than one-third were under 10 years old.
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how many purse seine netters there are now compared with the figure in 1978, or whichever year he chooses, because that is the most efficient way to catch pelagic fish, whose numbers have multiplied dramatically?
Of course, but that does not alter my point that the total numbers of fish have gone down. I mentioned two factors. One was that, despite the purse net, there has been a decline of almost 25 per cent. in fish caught and many boats have been lost. I agree with the hon. Gentleman if he is expressing fears about the proliferation of the purse net.
Yes. I was worried about that. If we are to have intelligent conservation measures, we must use the most efficient form of fishing, but when we examine any form of fishing a major criterion is whether it is also an intelligent method of conservation.
It is an extraordinary fact, as Nye Beven said, that Britain is an island surrounded by fish and it would take an idiot to make a mess of it. However, we are still in deficit in our balance of trade in fish and fish products by about £250 million a year. That should stop.
It has been argued that our access to EEC waters rectified the position. In 1970, we caught £133 million worth of fish in third country waters. By 1981, that figure had declined to £4 million. One factor in the decline is the presence of EEC waters, and the other major factor is the loss of Icelandic waters. But between 1969 and 1981, the United Kingdom's catch in Community waters fell from 901,000 tonnes to 639,000 tonnes. Denmark's catch increased from 260,000 tonnes to 450,000 tonnes. Those figures are from a recent report and they can be checked, but they mean that the United Kingdom's catch in Community waters has fallen by about 30 per cent., whereas the Danish catch increased by 78 per cent. The figures can be found in the annual report of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Is the hon. Gentleman pleased that, in 1970, before we joined the Community, we were catching 33 per cent. of the main edible species in European waters, and that from now on we shall have 37⅓ per cent.? Does he agree that that is a substantial improvement on what we were enjoying from European waters before we joined the Community?
That ignores two factors. One is that we could fish in third country waters and the other is the potential catches had we not joined the Community. The balance between imports and exports of edible fish each year is still £250 million in the red. That cannot be satisfactory.
I want to mention two or three other matters, one of which is restructuring. The figures for ageing and the drop in catches show the need for this, whether we are in or out of the Market. How different the position would be if we were outside the Common Market and in a position to exercise our own control over 200 miles. All the possibilities must be measured against that.
If we were outside the Common Market, restructuring would not be an exercise in decline, but a genuine remodelling and reshaping of the structure of our fleet. We would need to remould to new needs, particularly in our middle water fisheries, and remould the fishing fleet for that purpose. We would also be in a position—this is something that the Minister seems to miss all the time—to carry through good bilateral agreements for mutual benefit with the Faroes, Norway and, possibly, Iceland. I do not blame the Conservative Government alone in this respect. The Labour Government, too, were in error in their negotiations with Iceland. We should have agreed with Iceland on the 200-mile limit, preparatory to operating the same system for ourselves.
I am fascinated by what my hon. Friend says about a new fleet. Can he help us in Hull by suggesting how we might have a distant water sector? If we had perhaps 10 vessels, where would they fish? Is that a possibility?
The best way to solve the problems in Hull for a start would be to return a Labour Government, because that is the first and prime requirement. With that, and with the 200 miles and the fish within those 200 miles which other countries, too, would want to catch, it would be possible to come to a bilateral agreement, certainly with the Faroes, and Norway, and possibly on a trading basis with Iceland. However, a lot of work will be necessary to put right the harm done by this Government.
Restructuring is now urgent, and the Sea Fish Industry Authority is already doing much work in this regard. What share of the allocation of Common Market money is coming to us? There is every reason why it should come to us. Will it come to us on the basis of the 37 per cent. quotas? Will it be on the basis of the amount of fish—60 per cent.—that we have offered to Common Market waters? Will it be on the basis of the waters? We want to know the basis of the allocation, because we have suffered more than any other country, with our loss of third country waters.
I want to stress two aspects. The first is training. I hope that the Minister will be more generous in this respect than he was in fostering the marketing of fish. Perhaps he will be as generous as he is to the Argentines, because that would help us all. This Government have been willing to lash out large sums of money to a country with which a few weeks ago they said they were not prepared to discuss peace. [Interruption.] I am talking about Argentina. If the Government can do that with such cavalier abandon, they can give a little thought to some money for the training of British fishermen, particularly on safety at sea.
I have seen some material that was put before SFIA, and it suggests that 1,000 adult fishermen should be given training in basic sea survival each year up to 1986. Those of us who have fished in the North Sea know the continual anxiety for 16 and 17-year-old boys fishing without training in safety and basic seamanship.
Secondly, I shall say a word about the fishermen's charter, as we have come to know it. If we are to restructure, as we must, and if we are to police properly, as we must, the one thing that is common to both is the licensing of boats.
Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the subject of training, may I point out—a fact which I am sure that he, with his connection with Buchan, will appreciate—that the Buchan technical college trains the majority of young seamen in Great Britain in sea fishing? I accept that not only this Government but previous Governments have sadly failed to put enough money into training the men who go to sea, hence the considerable number of tragedies over the past few years. There is definitely a need for further training, particularly in places such as the Buchan technical college.
I hope that the Buchan Observer will have noted the hon. Gentleman's strong plea in connection with the Buchan technical college. There are other colleges, but I shall not name then now. I endorse what the hon. Gentleman said.
It has been suggested by a number of people working in this sphere, particularly the trade union, that we should now face the problem that we faced in the past with redundancies. At any rate, a start should be made on the present position, and a commission should be established to examine working conditions and the system of employing and remunerating all full-time fishermen, including, perhaps, share fishermen. In particular, we should seek to establish a register of all professional sea fishermen, shipping vessel owners and employers, and registration should be a prerequisite for a licence to fish. We should establish a body similar to a wages council to set minimum levels of guaranteed wages per day at sea and to set maximum levels for continuous work periods. Another problem concerns the specific conditions affecting these boats. We should set minimum times ashore as a corollary, and set holidays with pay, as in other industries.
Perhaps the hon. Gentleman will allow me to finish this point.
We should now be preparing the way for setting up an establishment benefit scheme, similar to that enjoyed by merchant seamen, for implementation in conjunction with the restructuring of the fleet. We should make provision for the safety and health care of fishermen, so as to cope with accidents, serious difficulties and occupational diseases. A group could examine the physical stresses caused by life at sea. We should provide for early retirement for fishermen. We should perhaps look at what happens regarding retirement in the mines at 55, and consider introducing a pension scheme so that fishermen whose physical condition is deteriorating could retire at 55, and so that those who wished to retire at 55 could do so voluntarily, with a pension. We should provide more access for training and education for all fishermen—not just entrants—who wish to avail themselves of that opportunity, making compulsory training in safety, survival and fire-fighting. Those arrangements should be supported and funded from public funds so that fishermen could take time off to undergo courses at public expense.
Finally, we should establish a system of life insurance, so that dependants can be taken care of in the case of death at sea, as with certain other industries. A fragmented industry probably needs a national framework of this kind. I call it a fisherman's charter, as have the men responsible for drawing it up, and I hope that the Minister will pay close attention to it.
I simply want to clarify the issue of licensing, and ask the hon. Gentleman whether, in his proposals in this regard, he sees it as a means of improving the conditions of work, or whether he sees it as a means of limiting the catching capacity.
I said that the restructuring and these proposals go together. One method is the licensing. Most fishermen tell me, particularly in connection with the Shetland box, that the system of licensing is the one prerequisite for good policing. I see no reason why we should not extend that, and I see no reason why we cannot have overall licensing. Part of the prerequisite for obtaining a licence would be the acceptance of the fisherman's charter.
I have talked beyond my time, as the Minister did, although rightly so because fishing debates are rare in the House. However, I was disappointed to hear the anxieties of those who work at the Lowestoft fishing laboratory about research. I know that the Minister is especially interested in the laboratory. Certainly one boat, perhaps more, has been taken out of use and there is particular anxiety about fundamental research and whether it will be driven more and more only to monitoring stocks rather than dealing with longer term research. I should like the Minister to reassure us about that. The researchers are worried that the Rayner complex within the Government might have its effect and that, while no redundancies are being declared on the scientific side, natural wastage may be happening and if that occurs in one department it might impede the laboratory's work considerably. If only two or three people went, for example, but they were all biologists, it could have serious consequences. Precisely because fishing is a hunting industry we need scientists and continuous scientific work. We should pay more attention to the scientists. The cavalier way in which the Government ignored the scientists' advice on the total allowable catch last year, both in relation to mackerel and other species, was deplorable.
I hope that the Government will consider marketing and marketing support. None of Britain's food industries has ever been good at marketing but we hope to repair that. The Minister has taken a lead in Food for Britain but can we have better financial support for the marketing of fish? In addition, we need an intelligent pricing policy. We must begin to put fishing on all fours with agriculture in terms of support structures, and that means a much more intelligent approach to fish prices.
Fishing is not exclusively a sea industry; it is land based also. When I see klondyking by foreign boats along our southern and south-west waters, I feel it is a pity that we have not given much more emphasis to onshore processing. Many people say that that is too expensive and that it is cheaper to steam out, fish, and unload in the foreign boat. Certainly it is unlikely that we shall be building the kind of klondykers that the Russians have been using and that they had as a result of their Canadian fishing. If we are to have a stable and a secure industry we must put money into improving marketing and processing factories. We must consider the problem of industrial catching, the by-products, the purse net which the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) seemed to like, and the dangers, not because we are Luddites but because we recognise that we cannot destroy the seedcorn of our industry and expect it to thrive.
I have a sheaf of irrelevant notes made as the Minister was speaking. He put up an extremely good case for a bad agreement. It is one that we must reject. We were given no opportunity to give our advice before it was arrived at and we now have an opportunity to do so. I shall be calling upon my right hon. and hon. Friends to show their attitude towards this thoroughly bad deal.
That reminds me that the Minister complained that only 120 people voted "No" to his policy. But that also meant that 70,000 fishermen did not even bother to endorse it at all. [Interruption.]
Six fishermen out of the 70,000 approved of the Minister's policy.
How is that for a headline? The Labour party thinks that it was a bad deal in or outside the Common Market. It was a bad deal but perhaps the best obtainable precisely because of the circumstances in which we had been placed by the Treaty of Accession, signed by the Conservative party, and we shall vote against it tonight.
I am grateful for the opportunity to raise an important and urgent problem which affects the fishing industry in my constituency. I welcome the settlement and congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on removing the uncertainty and instability in the industry. There is relief in Bridlington at the solution of a problem which most of my fishermen think should have been settled in 1975 in Dublin. There has been considerable fear that without an agreement, whatever assurances were given, there was a danger of the European fishermen being able to fish up to our beaches; that has now been removed.
The settlement has come not a moment too soon because in the last two or three weeks a large Hull trawling company, Thomas Hamling, has gone into receivership. That has had serious implications for the fishing industry in Bridlington—for two reasons. First, Thomas Hamling is a part-owner with skippers and crews of a considerable number of boats in Bridlington. Secondly, it operated one of the fish-selling companies in the port. That has caused an immediate problem, because the cheques paid to the fishermen for their week's fishing were bounced by the bank responsible for calling in the receiver.
That meant that, for one week, the fishermen had no money and it has certainly caused a nasty smell in the town because Hamling was acting only as an agent, paid on commission, and not as a principal. It was not buying and selling the fish and making the profit itself.
The attitude taken by the receiver, who is appointed by the bank, could affect the future of an important section of the Bridlington fleet. The bank acted unwisely and incorrectly in stopping the cheques. I have contacted it by telephone today, urging that the cheques should be met in payment for the fish landed by the fishermen. I pointed out that it would not be in the bank's long-term interests—particularly from a public relations point of view—to put the Bridlington fishermen in financial difficulties in this way. I was told that the matter was being dealt with at the highest level and would be looked at as sympathetically as possible. I hope that that means that the fishermen will be paid, because some of them are desperate for that money.
It is true to say that there are few things which do not lead to some good. I am delighted to tell the House that as a result of that company going into liquidation the fishermen have formed themselves into a co-operative called the Bridlington Fishermen's Selling Company; they should be congratulated on their initiative. [Laughter.] I am surprised to hear the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) laughing. I should have thought that he would have supported such an initiative by our local fishermen, as I certainly do.
I certainly do endorse co-operatives, but I am a little surprised to hear such support coming from the hon. Gentleman. The workers and trawler skippers from the Hamling vessels that collapsed contacted me this weekend to tell me of their problems because they could not contact the hon. Gentleman, who has an ex-directory telephone number.
That is incorrect. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations in Bridlington has a secretary, Mr. Gowan, with whom I have been in close contact over the past week. I have spoken to him several times on the telephone, he has kept me informed and I have discussed raising the matter in the debate this evening.
Hamlings is in west Hull and many skippers, deck hands and so on are Hull men. I do not say that we welcome what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but there can be no doubt that it should be said.
I take it that the hon. Member approves of the fact that I have brought this issue before the House.
I trust that the receiver will be prepared to sell the company's share in the boats to the skippers and crews involved at a reasonable price. That is essential if the industry in Bridlington is to continue at its present size. I shall outline how the agreement affects my constituency. The fishermen were particularly pleased about the quota for North Sea cod. We shall get 47 per cent. of the total. That is one of the most important species to be fished out of Bridlington and the fishermen believe that they will now get plenty of fish. The quota is well above the average catch in the years between 1973 and 1978. We then fished 85,000 tonnes, but we now have a quota of about 114,000 tonnes.
The fishermen are pleased with the elimination of the rights of all member states to fish any species in the six to 12-mile area from Flamborough head to Spurn point. The exception is the French right to fish for herring. There is some regret that my right hon. Friend the Minister was unable to negotiate that immediately, particularly as there is little record of the French fishing that species in the area. However, hon. Members must accept that one cannot expect to gain 100 per cent. of one's objectives in negotiations. If one negotiator achieves 100 per cent., the other negotiators will achieve virtually nothing. The elimination of those rights will be of particular benefit to Bridlington's inshore fishermen.
I should like to comment on restructuring, and in particular on building and modernisation. The Bridlington fleet is ageing and it is important that as many boats as possible should be replaced in the next few years. How much of the money will come to the United Kingdom, and in particular to the inshore industry? I was a little disturbed to notice in the agreement that, of the moneys available, we shall get 25 per cent. of the costs, while Ireland, Greece and parts, I believe, of France and Italy will obtain 50 per cent. That is regrettable, because our need is great.
With good will on the part of the receiver, I am sure that we shall get over Bridlington's local difficulties. If we do so, there will be a bright future for our fishing people. Bridlington is close to Hull and, like the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West, I have constituents who work there. Some of them are trawler owners and others are crew members. I have been asked to inquire what the effective date will be to qualify for reconstruction aid. As the industry has had to wait so long, the effective date to qualify for aid should be the settlement date of 25 January 1983. It is important to confirm that freezer trawlers will qualify for decommissioning grants and aid.
Future fishing areas may be a matter for my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary. The Falkland Islands could provide important fishing grounds, particularly if the limits there are extended to 200 miles. One of the leading trawler owners in Hull said that klondyking in the southwest had not been economic enough for the British owners to build ships because they would be used only for a certain part of the year. However, if they could be used for klondyking mackerel in the south-west as well as for fishering around the Falkland Islands it might be economic. It might be possible to do some swap deals with other countries. I understand that a great deal of squid has been caught there in the past by Polish trawlers and sold to Japan.
I thank the House for its indulgence and I also thank my right hon. Friends for achieving an agreement which will lift the uncertainty that has bedevilled the industry for so long.
The Minister will say that, like it or not, we have a European-agreed common fisheries policy. Indeed, he said that dogmatically today. He appeared to be not so much a wet as a dictator. He said nothing in his speech about the agreement. However, I shall paraphrase what he said in his statement last week. He said that we had a full and unqualified agreement, with the full approval of the three main fishing organisations, which was destined to last up to 20 years. The quotas obtained are higher than our actual catches between 1973 and 1978—the calculation period—for the seven main species of fish in which we, in the United Kingdom, are interested.
We have a total quota of 37·5 per cent—the Minister believes that the quotas are good—that is allied with conservation measures and an increasingly effective enforcement system. The Minister would say that all the ingredients make up a sensible fisheries policy. He believes that Britain should benefit from it. I suppose that he felt entitled to some self-satisfaction. His unrestrained ebullience from the fizz of his champagne must really have been relief from weariness. As defence counsel might say when defending a man on a charge of drunkenness, he was tired and emotional.
I suppose that that is understandable. There have been nearly four years of negotiations. About 26 trips have been made to Brussels and Europe. There have been 47 bilateral meetings and other states have been coaxed along, perhaps by private deals of which we shall know nothing for some time to come—deals of agriculture, deals with third countries, deals on the budget and so on.
All those with an interest in the deal have been racing against the threat of foreigners fishing up to our beaches. Perhaps in their mind's eye they saw the entry of the Spaniards with their massive fleet. I believe that the deadline threat led the fishing organisations to agree to the deal. They feared the collapse of what had been achieved and further deadlock. However, there are some glaring omissions in the agreement, to which I shall refer later.
First, I should like to ask some questions about the agreement. The Minister has said that we now have greater dominance of our coastal waters than was ever before enjoyed in the history of the British fishing industry. Prove it! Elaborate! Tell the House! Instead of giving us a bland statement, the Minister, at the end of the debate, should prove that our dominance is the best that has ever been known.
According to the press, the Minister said that the United Kingdom's fishermen would be able to catch 70 per cent. of all the fish within the coastal zone. That needs to be proved. I notice that there is an improvement. I refer to our rights in the six to 12-mile limits of French, Dutch, German and Irish waters. However, the fishermen ask what good that is to them. They think of the cost of sailing to those foreign waters only to find them swept clean by the native inshore fleets. How much are we likely to realise from the £140 million for restructuring? The Minister says that the bulk of the funds is to be allocated to what he calls measures of interest to the United Kingdom. What are they? Laying up payments? Scrapping? The modernisation of vessels? To what extent will our fishing fleet be restructured?
It is time that the Minister told us how the restructuring is to take place and which parts of our coastline and which ports are to benefit. I understand that all the EC moneys in the agreement must be applied for and agreed in three years. Before then, Common Market regulations must be laid before the House. Will we have a say in the share-out of those cash allowances to the various ports and regions of the United Kingdom?
What about restarting in Norwegian waters? We have had no details from the Minister. Who benefits? Which ports are affected? Is the size of a trawler likely to be a factor? That could be important to the Yorkshire and Humberside regions, to Hull and Grimsby—if there is a deep-sea fleet left to participate.
The Minister gave figures; I will give some. In 1969 a total of 218,347 tonnes of fish were landed at Hull by Humberside vessles, not by foreign vessels bringing in foreign fish. In Grimsby 171,163 tonnes were landed. In total those two ports landed 41 per cent. of the United Kingdom catch. In 1981 a total of 9,288 tonnes of fish was landed at Hull—a 95 per cent. reduction. In Grimsby, boats landed 40,635 tonnes—a 76 per cent. reduction. Those two ports have become almost completely shattered since we lost the cod war and have wearily negotiated a common fisheries policy with our European neighbours.
Hull's fresher fleet of about 100 deep-sea trawlers has almost disappeared. The number of modern freezers there has declined from 45 to no more than half a dozen, and not many of them have much fishing to do. A change in the type of fishing has meant a change in the structure of the fleet. Some owners have had to bow to change and more inshore fishing has resulted.
Unless United Kingdom and EC financial aid is forthcoming the total collapse of the fishing industry in Yorkshire and Humberside could become a reality. The starkness of the cruelty of change at those ports is revealed when one realises that from 1978 to 1981 employment on ship and shore, seagoing and land-related operations, declined by about 12,000 jobs. That is catastrophic for one area.
By comparison, in Scotland—apart from Aberdeen's loss for similar reasons—the middle distance and inshore fleets have survived, albeit on Government subsidies and Community grants. Today more than 50 per cent. of United Kingdom fishing takes place in Scottish waters. The pattern of fishing, the deployment of the fleet, its shape and port developments have undergone great changes and therefore some rectification is necessary to provide a more balanced deployment of the fishing fleet. In the light of that, Yorkshire and Humberside—Hull and Grimsby—must be seriously considered.
We intend to vote for our amendment. My reasons are more specific than are explained in the amendment. Welcoming what the right hon. Member for Yeovil (Mr. Peyton) had said, the Minister of State stated:
It will not only let our partners in the Common Market know where the British Parliament stands in these negotiations; it will be of immense reassurance to our fishing industry that all parties in the House of Commons stand together behind the Minister in the task that lies before him.
Those were brave words—resolute is the term in vogue. The Minister then said:
We are worried that in a long, drawn-out struggle, the British position might be watered down in some way. If it is, Parliament will not stand for it. Our European partners must accept this as a reality."—[Official Report, 15 June 1978; Vol. 951, c. 1236–39.]
Parliament will not stand for it.
He forgot to mention that a Tory-governed Parliament might. They were tough words, and prophetic. He used the words
watered down in some way.
That is what has happened. That is why we shall register our dissatisfaction with the Minister tonight. He will remember the British position by unanimous agreement of the industry and Parliament. We all reaffirmed our position on 7 August 1980. We were worried at what the Minister of State had previously said was actually happening and that our demands were being
watered down in some way.
The House and industry restated that we should all stand together based on a united resolution by Parliament. It was not just the Government or just the Opposition, but Parliament's expressly stated view that the House supported the Government's objectives—a satisfactory overall settlement of a common fisheries policy which takes adequate account of the need to conserve and safeguard fish stocks and of the overall requirements of the fishing industry. That also has not yet been spelt out in the agreement. We agreed in particular to maintain the need to secure exclusive access within 12 miles. There were no "ifs" or "buts". There were no variations on the theme. We were clear and unambiguous beyond doubt. We agreed to preferential access within 12 to 50 miles. They were two absolutely clear directives by Parliament.
Yes, I believe it could. I shall explain why. The directives by Parliament formed the core of our demands and the heart of our claim. The Minister has not won; he has lost. No matter how he glosses over his agreement, he cannot deny that on an exclusive access within 12 miles and preferential access within 12 to 50 miles he has failed the industry and Parliament. He has reneged on a unanimous resolution of the House.
As the Minister of State prophesied, taking the fishermen to Brussels and Europe month after month, year after year, wore them down. They experienced sheer frustration. They were exhausted and weary of the battle so they accepted watered-down proposals. In piecemeal fashion the Minister persuaded the industry's representatives to agree, not to a good deal, but to a raw deal. In the meantime the Minister ignored the call of Parliament. He preferred to ignore a unanimous resolution of the House. Crucial and key objectives were never obtained.
So tonight we shall vote for the fishermen of the United Kingdom because we would have preferred a better deal and not this raw deal. We shall cast a vote against a Minister for riding roughshod over Parliament's unanimous views.
The right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said that he could have negotiated a better deal. He was Minister responsible for fisheries for a long time and he singularly failed to do that. The right hon. Gentleman is right to say that there has been a complete change in the industry from distant water to inshore. He is right to say that that change is caused by external factors which have been disastrous for the Humber ports.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he would vote for the Opposition amendment. That surprised me, because the world has changed in the years that we have been debating the common fisheries policy. Initially, the right hon. Gentleman said that he was pleased that at last agreement had been reached. That is the view of most hon. Members on both sides. At least we have an agreement. Of course we would like to go back to the days before the cod war and to the 200-mile limit, but we cannot. The world has changed, even if the Labour party has not.
Let us examine the amendment. The Opposition claim that the Prime Minister's word is involved and that we should not have an agreement until we have an adequate exclusive zone. We do not have a complete 12-mile exclusive limit, but we have an improvement over 72 per cent. of our coastline where limits previously existed. The amendment also states that we should have an
area of preferential access and quotas".
The Shetland box has already been mentioned, and we now have access to French, Netherlands, German and Irish waters. We have a 37·3 per cent. quota, which is a considerable improvement on the first EC offer of 31 per cent.
The amendment states that we have failed to compensate the United Kingdom industry. The House has already heard about the major EC restructuring grants that are available, and the Government have given a total of £57·2 million compared with £14·9 million given by the Labour Government. It cannot be maintained that those matters have not been met by the agreement.
I do not know how many times the industry approached the last Government, but I know that it got four times more from the Conservative Government than from the Labour Government. Furthermore, as the Minister has said, far more trawlers went out of commission under the Labour Government than under the Conservative Government—certainly in my ports.
The background to the debate must be hammered home. It was the Conservatives who entered the Common Market, but we demanded renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. Later, the 200-mile limit made nonsense of the common fisheries policy discussions. In 1975 the Labour Government renegotiated the Common Market agreement, and the Conservative Opposition specifically asked that fishing be one of the subjects to be renegotiated. The hon. Gentleman can check that in Hansard. However, that was not done.
A year later, the 200-mile limit was discussed at the Hague meeting. The Labour Government allowed Ireland to double her quota of fish and claimed no more for Britain. Those are facts that can be checked. When the Conservatives came to power in 1979, we were alone against the eight other members of the Common Market, largely because the Labour fisheries Minister had not even bothered to attend the meeting in Berlin. It was eight to one. It has taken a long time, and strenuous negotiations by the Minister and the Minister of State, to put things right and get an agreement covering all the Nine.
It is not perfect—nothing is perfect in this world—but it is good. It would be marvellous if we could return to the days before the cod war, but history cannot be reversed. I believe that the agreement is the best possible in the circumstances.
Under the agreement, the quotas give us viability for the next 20 years. That will have a stabilising effect on the industry. We have an overall quota of 37·3 per cent., 47 per cent. of North sea cod, 60·5 per cent. of west coast herring and 58·7 per cent. of west coast mackerel. As I have said, the original EC proposal was for 31 per cent. overall. What we have achieved is much better than anything achieved by the Labour Government.
On access and the six to 12-mile limits we obtained considerable improvements over the pre-accession historic rights. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) outlined a specific case which can be paralleled all around the coast. British vessels now also have rights within the six to 12-mile limits off France, the Netherlands, Germany and Ireland. The Shetland box has already been mentioned.
Enforcement is perhaps the weakest point. The United Kingdom is to be responsible for enforcement within its own ports and limits. The EC is to have on-the-spot inspections, but I understand that the number of inspectors originally envisaged has been reduced. I am sure that both sides of the House would like to see EC inspection procedures toughened up considerably. I understand that the EC can now step in when a country has exceeded its quotas, as occurred in Norway two or three years ago, when the British had no quota at all, as it had been fished out by others. Under the EC rules, that will no longer happen. Nevertheless, EC enforcement must be examined very carefully in the coming years and we should do all that we can to toughen it up.
On conservation, even Labour Members must admit that there has been a great improvement in recent years. I am also glad that there is more control over beam trawling, as I have long advocated.
On restructuring, major EC grants are available for the next three years for scrapping, building, modernisation, laying up and exploratory voyages. United Kingdom aid has been £57·2 million over the years. Can the Minister tell us today whether Government aid will be available alongside EC aid for the specific matters that I have mentioned?
Redundancy payments have also been mentioned and it is important that they should be examined. The Minister agreed in his opening speech that the distant water fleets of Hull and Grimsby had been decimated because of the long delays in CFP negotiations. I know that the majority is casual labour, but something must be done either through the EC or by the Government to help with this problem in the Humber ports.
The port of Hull requires 25 freezer trawlers to operate—half the original freezer fleet—and these trawlers require 40 to 50 tonnes per day or 75,000 tonnes of cod or cod equivalent per year. I understand that the quota available is 114,700 tonnes, so a great deal depends on the quota allocations to the various ports. As I have pointed out to my right hon. Friend in the past, Hull and Grimsby have lost more through lost third water fishing rights than any other ports in the country and they must be given some compensation for that loss when quota allocations are made. To quote just one figure, the average loss to Hull distant water vessels over nine years has been 368,000 tonnes from third countries.
Now that the common fisheries policy has been agreed I hope that swap deals will go ahead with Norway and other countries. Previously, such deals were impossible as they had to be negotiated through the EC and the EC would not negotiate until the CFP had been settled. I hope, too, that the recent very large imports from Denmark and the Netherlands will be checked by the reduced quotas—25·5 per cent. and 7·7 per cent. respectively—allocated to those countries as compared with our own quota.
The essential point, however, is that the quotas—our own and everyone else's—must be correctly enforced by national Governments and, above all, by the EC, especially within the ports.
Finally, there has been a great fall in the value of fish. For instance, in 1978 cod fetched £563 per tonne, but in 1982 it fetched only £553. Yet in the same period the retail price increased by almost 50 per cent. and earnings increased by 58 per cent. This results not only from the changing value of the pound against other European currencies but from marketing problems. I shall not go into details, as we recently debated fish guide prices, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend will agree that EC withdrawal prices are too low and that higher guide prices are needed. We obtained higher guide prices for cod and haddock last year for this year and I hope that my right hon. Friend will continue his efforts next year as this is fundamental for the recoupment of the fleet.
The new marketing regime started on 1 January this year. We hope that also will be a help.
In many years of fighting for the CFP, Labour Governments have been so unsuccessful that when they left office eight countries were ranged against us. Now we have an agreement to which the whole EC agrees and which is recognised by the industry as being the best possible under the circumstances. In the next 10 years we shall have to restructure our fleet, as has already been said, changing from the larger vessels to the smaller vessels. We must ensure proper policing here and in continental Europe and obtain the correct marketing arrangements. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State deserve special praise for what they have achieved against so much difficulty and obstruction in at last obtaining a satisfactory CFP.
Will the hon. Member therefore withdraw his statement that
Ireland received better assurances for a 50-mile limit than were given to Britain. Is he
the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen)—
aware of the explosive anger that will be demonstrated by the whole fishing industry if we fail to obtain a 50-mile exclusive limit?"—[Official Report, 2 November 1976; Vol. 918, c. 1212.]
Has the hon. Gentleman changed his view?
Of course, the industry then was asking for a 12-mile exclusive limit and preferential access for 50 miles. That was not obtained by the Labour Government or wholly by the present Government but we have achieved the best we possibly could under the circumstances. I say again that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State and Ministers responsible who have at last achieved this agreement deserve the congratulations of the House on obtaining reasonable stability for the industry for the next 20 years.
The test of the agreement lies in the future. Will it prevent overfishing in the North sea, and will it protect stocks so that local fishermen can make an adequate living and the industry can thrive?
I am alarmed particularly at the heavy industrial fishing that goes on in the North sea and by the immense increase in catching power. That is of great importance to my constituency. As oil runs down, we shall return more and more to our traditional employments of crofting, knitwear and fishing. As I have often said, islands such as Whalsay and Skerries have no hinterland, and if fishing fails they will fail completely.
I attach great importance to two passages of letters from the Secretary of State for Scotland. I should like to put them on the record. The first passage comes from a letter dated 14 December 1982. The Secretary of State said:
I shall certainly be watching closely for any signs that Shetland waters are being over-fished: the proposed arrangements for the North of Scotland box gives us a valuable means of controlling fishing effort in that area, and monitoring the situation so that I can react appropriately if the need arises. I share your concern for the long-term future of the fishing stocks around the United Kingdom, and for the long-term viability of the fishing industry. I am convinced that the CFP as proposed, with its full range of access, conservation, restructuring and control measures, offers excellent prospects to secure that future … Accordingly, it may reasonably be expected that foreign activity in the area will decline, while the traditional fishing pattern for local vessels will not be affected, and indeed their opportunities should be enhanced by the implementation of new controls.
I emphasise that our anxiety is not only about foreign vessels, but about the total number of British vessels which may take to fishing off Shetland and Orkney. I also emphasise that the Secretary of State referred to local vessels, and this I understand is a commitment that if there is any danger of local vessels being unduly pressed by vessels from other parts of Britain the Government will take action.
Last year, the Shetland industry, and indeed the Orkney industry, had a fairly satisfactory time. In 1981 the total Shetland catch of demersal and pelagic fish and shellfish was about 74,500 tonnes, worth about £7 million. In the third quarter of last year alone, the industry caught 34,000 tonnes worth about £2,250,000. To date, even allowing for inflation, it has not been doing too badly, but, in spite of the box, I still have some anxiety about the amount of fishing that will go on around Shetland and Orkney.
Licences will be issued for 62 British vessels—large British vessels more than 25 metres between the posts-52 French vessels, 12 German and two Belgian. Those are not strictly licences. Individual vessels will not be licensed. These are the numbers of vessels which will be fishing in the box at any time. It means that 52 French vessels can fish continually in the box. As soon as one goes out, another can take its place. Therefore, it is not strictly a licensing scheme, and it may lead to heavy fishing. I only hope that the Government will monitor, as they say they will, and, if necessary, take action against overfishing not only by foreign vessels but by British vessels.
In addition, as the Government well know, my constituents are still anxious to discuss a regional managing or licensing scheme applicable to all vessels under which fishing will not be reserved totally to Shetland or Orkney, but there will be a proper licensing scheme for fishing around our coasts. Again, the Secretary of State for Scotland has told me that he is willing to discuss such a scheme as soon as the industry is ready and now that the agreement is signed. I hope that that is so, but he has also shown that he does not think it necessary. I still believe that it is necessary. If he does not think so, I hope he will deploy the reasons which make him believe that.
The cost of fuel is of considerable importance to my constituency. What do the Government believe will be the effect of the recent fall in the price of oil? One result is that petrol in my constituency has increased by 5p per gallon. I hope that the fishing industry can now look forward to some decrease in the price of fuel either through a drop in world prices or perhaps from subsidy.
The Government will be aware that there is some dissatisfaction in my constituency with the allocation of the subsidy. My constituents believe that the smaller boats have been badly treated. The Government are entitled and right to take credit for giving a subsidy to the industry, but they should get this in proportion. This year and next year £14 million will be spent on the Palace of Westminster. That is in addition to the £60 million or £70 million which has been spent in the past 20 years. We should get these things in proportion. The amount of money given to fishermen is not large considering what we spend to refurbish our own home. However, anything is better than nothing.
I understand that the Minister of State has recently met representatives of the shellfish industry and discussed their possible licensing scheme. I also understand that some form of licensing scheme has been or is about to be agreed in Wales based upon the number of creels. Perhaps the Minister, when he replies, will comment on that. I am also told that the size of lobsters which may be caught is to increase from 83 mm to 85 mm. I am not sure of the scientific evidence for thinking that that will make much difference or what the point of it is. I understand that the minimum size of the skaggerak is 75 mm, and that 75 mm lobsters can be marketed in Britain because that is the limit in force in certain parts of the EC. It seems essential that some harmony should be introduced into the EC regulations. We are all agreed that the berried lobster orders were comparatively ineffective. It has been suggested to me that lobsters weighing less than 1 lb or more than 3 lb should be returned to the sea. At any rate, there are signs that lobster stocks are decreasing. I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will say what is being done for the shellfish industry.
I finish where I began. I am still not at all satisfied that the long-term future of the industry is absolutely assured. Another matter gives cause for concern. I understand that foreign vessels can now come to Britain and be registered here. My hon. Friend the Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) tells me that 62 Spanish vessels have been registered in the United Kingdom and are free to fish within the limits and for the quotas that have been assigned to the United Kingdom. Is that true? If so, is this not a large loophole in all the arrangements? Can foreign vessels come here, obtain registration, and then take advantage of all the wonderful benefits that the Government say they have gained for the British fishing industry? This is already an extremely important issue in Cornwall and in parts of the English channel and it is one that needs to be dealt with.
It is always a great pleasure to be able to take up the remarks of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). I am sorry that he is to leave us after we have spent so many millions of pounds making this place attractive for him to remain in. His speech was in marked contrast to that of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who spoke from the Opposition Front Bench. It was his usual old mixture of 50 per cent. vinegar and 50 per cent. vitriol. The hon. Gentleman is an effective speaker but he left me slightly baffled. We were all looking back in anger—this has been a great debate for that. The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland is one of the few contributors to the debate who is looking forward.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West claimed that our position was untenable from the beginning because of the original terms of entry into the Common Market. The retort of Conservative Members on such occasions is, "But the previous Labour Government renegotiated the terms of entry." It seems that we both have guilt on our shoulders. I shall have to explain to my constituents that I voted for entry into the Common Market. Labour Members will have to explain to their constituents why they c id not renegotiate the fisheries policy if they really felt so strongly about it.
It will be easy for the hon. Gentleman to vote against the agreement.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West seemed to be saying that it was a bad agreement. He seemed also to say that the Labour party could not have negotiated a better agreement because it was so damned difficult to negotiate. He finished by saying that my right hon. Friends were in an impossible position. I am left unconvinced by the hon. Gentleman and his right hon. and hon. Friends that the Labour party could have produced a better agreement within the terms of reference that my right hon. Friends had. Where would the Labour party have used the magic waves of the diplomatic wand to better the agreement that is now before us? If there are any to be waved, I have not heard about them. Staying away from Berlin was not a very effective way of using a magic wand. So much for the past. We all have our cross to bear.
I think that the agreement is as good as any that we could possibly obtain. It is certainly a much better agreement than the one that was on the cards when my right hon. Friends first took on the task three and a half years ago.
I was astounded when the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) complained about the fishermen being pressed and worn down by my right hon. Friends. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the fishermen from my constituency who accompanied my right hon. Friends were only too delighted to go. They were only too delighted by the notice that was taken of what they had to say. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's criticism can properly be levelled at the Government.
The Humber ports, Fleetwood and Aberdeen would have been badly hit irrespective of membership of the Common Market. There is an argument that we would have been better able to deal with the difficulty if we had remained outside the Community. That is a fair argument for those who oppose the Community but I am not so certain that we would have had the freedom of negotiation that some hon. Members have claimed. We would have had to respect the rights of others.
When we first started to discuss the idea of a 200-mile limit we found that we had plenty of pelagic fish in our 200 miles but not the quantity of demersal fish that we were able to get from the Icelandic and Norwegian grounds. That was one of the problems when the early talks took place. When we had herring we thought that we could do a deal with the Icelanders by inviting them to take some of our herring in return for some of their white fish. I believe that the port of Fleetwood would have been badly hit whether Britain had been inside or outside the Community.
During the years leading up to the cod wars the deep sea fleet was confined to Icelandic and Norwegian waters. The fleet was designed to fish in those waters and it was obvious that it would be in serious trouble if it were denied them. That proved to be the case. There is not one deep sea trawler left in Fleetwood.
While the deep sea fleet was being run down severely the inshore fleet was increasing. Men who lost jobs on the deep sea trawlers put their savings into buying fishing vessels. Fishing is the only job that they know and it is their only skill. This process has increased the size of the inshore fleet. It is now extremely important to our fishing economy and we must look after it with care. It provides work, and the fish that our people need to eat.
The prosperity of fishing ports is variable. Some parts of the country are doing better than others. I suspect that Scotland comes out rather better than England and Wales. Fleetwood has had a rough time since mid-November because of the weather, which has been appalling. It has been a mild winter inland but at sea there has been gale after gale. This has meant that some of the inshore boats have been unable to go to sea. The owners can do nothing to alleviate their cash flows and overheads, especially the interest charges on their boats, which continue. I ask my right hon. Friend to bear carefully in mind the position of ports such as Fleetwood.
As the right hon. Member for Barnsley said, there is a special case to be made for the ports which have suffered especially because of the loss of third water grounds. The Humber ports and Fleetwood have suffered especially. Fleetwood is a special case because it has been hit so much harder than other ports. It has finished up with vessels that have nowhere to fish and nowhere to go. Special care must be given to rebuilding schemes. The Government have been generous and grants have been made but they have been spread over a wide area. The time has come to consider being more discriminatory in the way that grants are applied.
Under the common fisheries policy there is a future for the middle water fleet. When I first went to live in Fleetwood in 1951 there were many middle water vessels operating from the port. Later they were withdrawn and the operation was concentrated in Iceland. Nevertheless, the waters are there to fish, not within the 12-mile limit but well outside it. It would suit Fleetwood well to have trawlers of between 80 ft and 135 ft that fish in bad weather. One of the problems that faces my port, which possesses only an inshore fleet, is the continuation of supplies when the weather is as it has been recently.
Perhaps my right hon. Friend the Minister can say how the commissioning and restructuring grants will apply. Which vessels will get them? Will it be those vessels that have fished up to the last possible moment? How will the grants be distributed? We can get vessels of middle-water size to fish effectively. They will not face the substantial overheads that the big Icelandic vessels used to have.
I shall now deal with a different problem—marketing. Having seen some fish markets abroad and the way in which fish is presented in Britain, I believe that a great deal can be done to improve our presentation. I join other hon. Members who have pressed the Minister about marketing. I hope that he will listen. He has expressed extreme interest in the marketing of fish. To market it properly, we must achieve a price that is good enough for the fisherman and good enough to enable the housewife to buy when she compares it with competing products such as chickens, hamburgers and convenience foods. Foods must be presented properly. Proper presentation could be of great advantage to the industry.
There is great scope for selling fish in the expanding slimmers' market. I know that I am not a good advertisement for slimming. I recently tried to buy a suit off the peg and was told that I could not be provided with one because I was portly. Nevetheless, the slimming craze that has swept through the country could provide a market for fish because, if it is cooked properly, fish can be an effective slimming food.
Another problem that faces ports such as Fleetwood is the landing of fish. The National Dock Labour Board ports are suffering because fishing is included in that dock labour scheme. I am no longer certain that it is good for the dockers or for the people who land the fish. In the past two and a half years, the dock labour force in my port has fallen from more than 100 to 15. Unless the port is effective and attracts fishermen, there is no need to land the fish.
I hope that there can be talks with the fishing industry and that it will be pointed out that it is different from normal dock work. It could be suggested that we do away with the present system and have a regime that will lower the price of landing fish, so that the price to the housewife is lower and the fishing industry has a better stake in the market.
The past 10 years have been traumatic for our industry. It has been terrible to sit and watch it as I have done. I had connections with the fishing industry long before I came to the House. I am left with tremendous admiration for those people who have fought against the blows which have been aimed at them and which they could not control in any way.
Wyre borough council and the Lancashire enterprise board have tried to step in to help. The present agreement is a springboard for the future. All aspects of the fishing industry will be tender for some time, and the Government will have to keep a close eye on the problem. Nevertheless, I pay tribute to my right hon. Friend the Minister of State. Throughout the years of negotiation, he has never failed to give a most courteous hearing to the fishermen of Fleetwood every time that we wanted to see him.
Unlike some of his hon. Friends, the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) made a realistic and temperate speech. I do not necessarily share his point of view but he did not regard the agreement as something to be over the moon about. I think that I am right to say that he said that it was the best that we can have in the circumstances. Some of his hon. Friends have been quite euphoric about the agreement. I see nothing in it to justify that outlook.
The Minister referred to the fact that during the Common Market renegotiations the Labour Government did not have fishing on the agenda. That is a valid charge but it is also true that if the Conservative Government had had some regard for the fishing industry during the accession negotiations neither the Labour Government nor the Minister would have had to bother with trying to get a fisheries policy out of the Common Market. My constituents and those in the Shetland part of the constituency of the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) voted to come out of the Common Market when we had the opportunity in the referendum. I have always believed that that strong vote to come out of the Market occurred because the people of the Western Isles took the same view as the Norwegians who believed that membership of the Market could be death to the industry.
The press release that the Prime Minister issued before the last general election for the benefit of Conservative candidates, especially in Scotland, has already been referred to. It is a vague document. It is good on assertions such as:
We shall make fishing top priority in our EEC negotiations.
We can take that with a pinch of salt. The document continues:
In addition our negotiating aims will be for:—
1. an adequate exclusive zone"—
there is no suggestion of what that might be; 5 miles, 50 miles or 500 miles—
2. a further considerable area of preferential access"—again, there is no suggestion of what the area should be.
The fourth aim was:
Britain must have a very substantial share of the total allowable catch".
That is also extremely vague. Nevertheless, it worked a treat at the time. Some fishermen who know better now were led to believe that a Conservative Government would look after the fishing industry. The result has been reduction and chipping away all the while.
I know that some Conservative Members do not like Fishing News. Nevertheless, it deals with what we wanted—a 50-mile exclusive limit, which has been beaten back to a 12-mile exclusive limit, dominant preference in a 12-mile to 50-mile band and a fair share of our 60 per cent. stock contribution. What did we get? A six-mile exclusive limit, foreign access to a six-mile to 12-mile band, no real dominance areas and 36 per cent. of the main species. As the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said, I hope that we shall hear more about United Kingdom vessels' right to access to United Kingdom waters.
The deal strikes me as a defeat and a sell-out of the fishing industry. I am especially worried that the Danes have a fall-back position about the 20,000 tonnes of mackerel. The problem must be solved one way or another before the debate is completed. The English paid danegeld in the past and it did not do them much good. The Danes are now claiming that they have the right to 20,000 tonnes of mackerel. We want a categorical assurance that that mackerel will not come from the west coast of Scotland.
My constituency has suffered considerably from the deal. There is foreign access for up to six miles, for all species, for France, Ireland and Germany. It will he extremely difficult for the fishermen in my area to survive when those foreign vessels have those rights of access. Therefore, I am sure that the Western Isles islands council, my local authority, will press the Government to accept its fisheries plan, which the Secretary of State assured me earlier was not against the principles of the Common Market or the British Government.
One sees the extent of the sell-out involved in the common fisheries policy if one compares the end result with the demands made by Conservative Members about the absolute minimum that the fishermen would accept. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), speaking in a fisheries debate in June 1978, said that the extension of the limit to 200 miles
was not an EEC extension to 200 miles but an extension by the sovereign States which happened to be members of the EEC.
He went on:
it explodes any claim that the EEC might have in extending the 200-mile limit to the effect that it is the owner of the fish within that limit. It has already been pointed out that no other resource is attempted to be treated in this way…Therefore, there must be no question of even accepting the principle of a Community resource.
When talking about limits, the hon. Gentleman said:
The Conservative Party remains firmly of the belief that a 50-mile exclusively controlled zone is the most practicable and best available way in which to get what we believe are our just deserts.
The hon. Member for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) said that the world had changed. It has not changed half as much as the views of the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South. In the debate to which I referred, he said:
What do we need? We need control over our 200-mile exclusive economic zone and over conservation measures in that area. Also, as the industry has made clear, we need a 50-mile exclusive zone."—[Official Report, 15 June 1978; Vol. 951, c. 1208–45.]
Today the hon. Gentleman is a signatory to an early-day motion congratulating the Government on the policy at which they have arrived. How is that possible? How did the hon. Gentleman's demands change in that fashion since June 1978? I can only put it down to gross political prejudice. Such hon. Members will accept from the Conservative Government one tenth of what they demanded when in Opposition.
There was an article in The Scotsman on 14 December entitled
Old rivalries surface in Scottish fisheries crisis".
I said earlier that the Scottish Fishing Federation had fragmented into different sections after the announcement
of the fisheries policy. This article will be of interest to Conservative Members, particularly those from the north-east of Scotland. It states:
For years now forward-thinking fishermen from the Clyde to Shetland have seen the implications of this imbalance and have attempted to forestall its effects by developing regional fisheries plans which give a high degree of preferential fishing for local vessels.
They consider the purse-seine fleet a case in point. There are just five pursers between Mull of Kintyre and the Butt of Lewis but there are another 50 of them in the North-east. For years, however, this fleet has taken much of its huge catches from the Minches, in the way of herring and mackerel, and so seriously have these stocks been depleted that it is estimated that economically the optimum number of pursers for Scottish waters is no more than 20. For West coast fishermen the logic is clear—keep out an unrestricted East coast fleet or face the extinction of West coast fishing communities.
For one thing, they did not do so because of the capital involved and because the vessels were not being built in British yards. They did not do so because they are opposed to that type of fishing. The hon. Gentleman believes that it is an efficient way of fishing. It is. However, it is so efficient that if it is continued for much longer, the ports from which the vessels sail will face extinction. The hon. Gentleman and other hon. Members from the north-east will not find it easy to deal with the west coast in future when foreign vessels have the same rights as our vessels in those areas.
The policy refers to conservation and enforcement. The policy is pie in the sky on those points. In the past we did not get far. It is ridiculous for the Minister to talk as if both those things will be assured as a result of the policy. It also refers to restructuring the fishing industry. In my book that means fewer boats for us, while the fleets of other countries expand. The fishing fleet should be treated in the same way as agriculture with regard to grants and loans. I am not opposed to the farming grants. They are fully justified. It is time that the Government faced up to the fact that the fishing communities and fishermen deserve the same rights.
The policy would mean a contraction of the fishing industry. There would be massive implications for future naval requirements, which the Government should keep in mind. It is not a great concern of mine, but it is theirs, and they should not forget it. Apart from the economic dangers, there are other dangers to which the Government should pay attention.
I listened with interest to the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart), not least because I have never heard him make an optimistic speech. He is always grumbling and asking for more—typical gloom and doom. Whatever is provided, it is not enough for the right hon. Gentleman. I suppose that comes from knowing full well—I am sorry to be critical—that he would never have to reach an agreement with anybody on behalf of anybody else, so it is always safe to pursue the path of criticism.
I am bound to doubt the right hon. Gentleman's words for the simple reason that one of the negotiators of the agreement was none other than my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, whose interests in Scotland are well known, firm and beyond question. I am certain that he would never have allowed the agreement to be reached had it not been fully in the interests of Scotland and of Scottish fishermen.
There is a danger that in the Chamber any words of commendation to one's own side will be regarded as sycophantic, yet an outstanding success has been achieved by my right hon. Friends. The fact that the Opposition are seeking to deny it and to cover up serious mismanagement in their negotiations makes it entirely right that I should voice my wholehearted approval of what my right hon. Friends have done.
The truth is that an agreement had to be reached. The longer the delay, the more difficult that was. Good though the agreement is now, it would have been better had it been achieved when the Labour Government were in power, as could have happened.
During the five years that I spent in the European Parliament, I became more and more depressed by the British Government's standing and unpopularity, particularly during this country's first presidency in 1977. At times I felt that Ministers did not want to get on with their opposite numbers in the Council. That feeling was quickly reciprocated. It was not the way to reach agreement. It was all too easy, if all too mistaken, for the Government to refuse to reach agreement unless all our demands were met. Many people felt that the Government were sticking out for the fishermen's true interests. The reality was that, by not then reaching a fair and lasting agreement, the industry's long-term interests were being jeopardised.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) said that my right hon. Friend has the best obtainable agreement. If one accepts those words as being genuine, it means that my right hon. Friend did everything that was possible. If he did everything that was possible, one has to see from where he started. When he took office, in the words of Austen Laing, the then director general of the British Fishing Federation Ltd.:
The hand which he was obliged to pick up, when he assumed office, was a yarborough.
After starting with a yarborough my right hon. Friend finally achieved a successful agreement. The Opposition admitted it to be the best obtainable agreement.
We must never forget that my right hon. Friend, his colleagues and helpers had difficulties that did not exist when the Labour Government were negotiating. At a critical point in the negotiations, Mr. Gundelach, the agriculture Commissioner, died. His successor became ill. There then followed a series of national elections in different EC countries. Those factors made final agreement impossible and continuing negotiation necessary. All that time we had to keep our cards close to our chest in case our negotiating position was given away. Yet patiently, persistently and, above all, firmly my right hon. Friend steered the negotiations to a successful and agreed conclusion. It is sad to me that, because of the way we conduct our affairs in the House, we cannot be united in welcoming a job well done.
I shall now deal with the future. The predominant feelings among my fishermen are, first, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) said, great relief that at last a firm and lasting agreement has been reached. That is welcome. For months, if not years, the urgent need was for an agreement to be reached so that we could plan ahead. The second feeling was that now both the industry and the Government could get down to planning for the future. Today is not the time to go into great detail about that planning, but it is time to stress to everyone interested the opportunities that lie ahead for the industry to grasp. Everyone connected with the industry must play his part.
Representing Scarborough, I think particularly of the English inshore industry. The fishermen must look to the renewal, or at least modernisation, of boats and equipment. The cost of that at present-day prices is substantial. The right hon. Member for Western Isles said that the cost might have deterred fishermen from having new boats. I have been amazed that fishermen in my constituency, despite the difficult conditions of the past two years, have still been prepared to put vast sums into the building and equipping of new boats at great risk to their families. Many of them have found life difficult, because there is no doubt that during the past year or two years the only people who have managed to make any money in the inshore fleet have been those with the older boats which they have managed to keep in tip-top order. Those who have the new boats, with their tremendous costs, have found things difficult. That cannot go on for ever. There must be new boats. New and up-to-date equipment must be provided if we are to make the most of the opportunity that lies ahead. I am sure that fishermen in Scarborough are ready and willing to undertake the necessary obligations to meet those challenges. However, it is not just the fishermen, the processors and, above all, the merchants who have the important task of improving their methods and marketing arrangements.
The home ports of the inshore fishing fleet must have the vision and confidence to provide modern harbour and quayside facilities on which their future fleets can be based. It is no good carrying on the same old system with the same old equipment and facilities for the fleet. The fleet must be, and I believe is, willing to modernise, but it must also be supported by a modern port, not just with proper berthing, but with up-to-date fuelling, icing plant and facilities for buying, selling, and processing fish. I have left the Scarborough harbour authority and the fleet in no doubt as to my views on the matter.
Alas, I regret that certain ports have serious recession, but I believe that there are ports with a good future if they want to grasp it. Undoubtedly, one of those is Scarborough. They must have the proper facilities to make the best of those opportunities and those facilities must be provided now. The Government, too, have an important part to play. Most importantly, they must police the agreement and ensure that it is effective. Without that, the future once again looks uncertain and bleak.
The Government must make sure that not only this country, but all the signatories to the agreement carry out what is agreed. They must help and encourage the industry in all the changes that must be made if we are to take full advantage of the new opportunities won for us. I hope that they will, as they have done in the past, by keeping in touch with the industry.
What a mockery to say that the fishermen had grown so tired of going to Brussels that they signed the agreement out of sheer weariness. Perhaps that was the trouble when the Minister in the Labour Government failed to go to Berlin. He may have been a little weary. Our Ministers certainly were not weary. [Interruption.] It is no good the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) looking like that. We all know that the then Minister should have gone to Berlin and seen that the agreement was not made.
We must keep in touch with the industry, as I am sure we shall, and with the ports that wish to re-equip themselves to act as the basis for the fleets of the future.
A new fishing agreement requires all nations to agree. We have seen the situation with Denmark over the past few months. If one nation did not attend, how was it possible to get an agreement?
Exactly. It was an agreement of the eight. When we came to power, it was one nation—Britain—against the other eight. The transference to unity was a remarkable achievement under great difficulty. We started from a poor position largely set up by the Labour Government.
I welcome the agreement. I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on their work in achieving it. I look forward with confidence to the future of our fishing industry.
Last Wednesday the poll taken by Fishing News was mentioned at the Dispatch Box, when the Minister thought that he had scored a point over my hon. Friend the Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan). I would have preferred to see a poll taken among the workers in the industry. It might have given us a little more insight into what the industry feels.
Let us suppose that Fishing News had taken t poll in North Shields, Peterhead and Hull. I believe what the leaders have said—that the workers would have shown themselves to have been in favour of the settlement at this time, late in the day. The Minister is entitled to have his fun, talking of one against eight or eight against one. He is correct in one sense in saying that that was the position when the Labour Government were negotiating, but it is a pedantic, academic and historical point. Further argument about the percentage—whether it is 37·2 or 40 per cent.—is superfluous. A deal had to be done by the end of the calendar year. I did not think that that would be achieved. I thought that the situation would go on and on and at the end of the day the Danes would play us out.
No one can deny—fishermen in North Shields or Ministers at the Dispatch Box—that many problems remain. Fishermen know that only too well. The men who go fishing and the merchants who sell fish on the dockside grudgingly accept the position—faute de mieux. They could go no further. If we discount a little hypocrisy on either side of the House—a large dose from the Minister, as always—it is apparent that we must attempt to implement the deal as fully as we can.
I believe that, as usual, Scotland has come off better than England.
One of our headaches in Hull will be to get a sufficiently large share of the money, if and when the Minister disburses his share of the £130 million or £140 million from the EC. We may have a difficulty with Scotland, but I must not talk about devolution and the other matters that perplex people north and south of the Tweed.
We must do three things. First, we must make conservation stick. That is vital to us all. The Minister talked of sensible conservation policies, but there are so many unknowns. Whether with conceit or not, the United Kingdom believes that it can patrol and organise its waters. We are the first to say that the other Community states have neither the ability nor the will to implement the policies essential to maintain our fish stocks. That is sad. It is bad for the future and distorts competition now.
We are not angels. Constituents of mine—Hull skippers—have been gaoled in Iceland and Norway. But our fleet is at a disadvantage. We are not operating under the Marquess of Queensberry rules. Like a certain member of the CBI we might have to fight with bare knuckles to enforce uniformity.
The common fisheries policy needs enforcement. Can that be done internationally? I do not think that this EC that we are in is willing to spend enough money. Let us consider the policing of vessels. We began with 30 inspectors, which is inadequate, but we are now down to 13. I always attempt to be fair—it is a start, but not much of one. Will those 13 inspectors stamp on people in Boulogne? A year or so ago a BBC film showed clearly and factually what was happening with officials, the harbour commissioner and skippers who landed their fish there.
Will the 13 inspectors board vessels at sea and take us back to the time of Wilberforce when our Navy boarded foreign vessels looking for slaves? Will they emulate the slave dealers? The Minister of State may think that those inspectors may cost only £20,000 in expenses which is not much. However, those 13 inspectors are receiving £250,000 from the kitty to do their jobs. Some of them will be on shore, so only half a dozen may be at work on the sea. We have to begin somewhere, but this is a poor, meagre start that fills me with no hope of success.
It is not new to say that we must have a properly structured fleet. Our fleet—especially the inshore section—can capture all the catches available. We have been given a 37·2 per cent. share of the total allowable catch, but that is only for seven species. The Minister will not demur if I tell him that, at the end of the day, we have a 28 per cent. share of the total available catch of all species in the EC fish pond.
The United Kingdom has an old fleet with too many vessels. We must scrap and build and get ourselves back 20 years to the days of the Fleck committee. Otherwise, we shall be seeking subsidy after subsidy from the Government. The Treasury must be much more generous than the Community, which has given £130 million to £140 million. There is nothing to stop the Government giving far more than that if necessary. The Minister can, at his own discretion, top up any funds that are given to us by the EC. He and the Minister of State can make up their own minds. I have no clue what the Minister intends to spend because nothing has been finalised. It is too early.
The EC will take six months to settle its views and regulations and then the Minister must consult the industry.
I understand that the people who work in the docks in Peterhead and North Shields have accepted the deal. It is a poor deal in absolute terms, but the best one available. There are far too much of some species in the deal and far too little of the one vital species, cod. There is too much plaice and haddock, but little cod.
Marketing has already been discussed today. The EC is terrible in that area. I wish that, with his adept touch in agricultural matters, the Minister of State would do something about intervention in fishing. The intervention levels are much too low. I am told that the United Kingdom is a magnet for all the surpluses that God sends.
The Minister earlier made sympathetic noises about Hull. I listened carefully to what my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) said about Yorkshire and Humberside. That was on the ball. Hull is unique in that it has the only deep sea fishing fleet left—what little there is. No other port is in the same shape. Fleetwood does not qualify because it never sent vessels beyond Spitzbergen and Baffin bay. It did most of its fishing—and did it well—off Iceland. Fleetwood is now on its uppers.
Hull has had the worst deal of any port in the United Kingdom. There is no fleet left worth speaking of there. Does the Minister think that it has a long-term future? The Germans have a distant water fleet, so why should we not have one also?
A joint deputation from Hull and Grimsby is to visit the Minister soon. It will include the leaders of the two councils, the two town clerks and the four Members of Parliament. We want to know what the Government think about our future. Will there be a fleet of about 10 vessels? Does the Minister and his advisers think that we could catch not only mackerel and herring—pelagic fish—off north-west Scotland and the south-west peninsula, but could our distant water boats—some of them are 270 ft long—go further?
I am glad that the Minister is in the Chamber, because he does listen to hon. Members, unlike some Ministers. Does he think that Hull has a future? The Germans have a distant water fleet in Cuxhaven, so why cannot we have one in Hull? We are the only port in that predicament. Will we have about 10 vessels with access to the Barents sea, the White sea and Spitzbergen, where the fleet fished in the past? Is it possible to do a deal with Iceland to fish there again and also with Denmark to fish off Greenland? Surely that is not impossible.
The Minister made sympathetic noises about Hull and, as he knows, a deputation is coming to visit him. Hull has received a shock, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Bridlington (Mr. Townend), because Hamlings has gone out of business. When a firm ceases business, there is gloom and despondency. People are talking about another firm that might cease trading. Let it not be too late before the Minister steps in to help us to survive.
Hull has waited a long time, and will continue to wait, in the hope that, within a month or so, the Minister will say, "I do not think Hull is finished yet. It has 2,000 unemployed deck hands and scores of skippers who have lost their jobs, and they are first-class people. They want to work and we will give them a chance to do so."
It is always a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and the reasonable argument that he puts forward. I dare to suggest that, if he and the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) were in rather more prominent positions on the Opposition Front Bench, instead of a motion to throw out the agreement there might be a bipartisan approach, which would be more beneficial to the fishing industry.
The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) said that Conservative Members would not like Fishing News. I read it avidly every week. It reflects substantially the views of the fishing industry. Its headline this week says
Let's make it work".
I suspect that the right hon. Member for Barnsley and the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West would have said "Let's make it work".
It is regrettable that many years of bipartisan approach, due, again, to the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West in an all-party committee on fishing, dealing with how to get together and talk to the industry and keep the industry together and let it be seen that we are not trying to divide and conquer as some would like to do, have been thrown aside by the cavalier attitude of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan), who has far more interest in scoring party political points than in obtaining a constructive future for the fishing industry.
I shudder to think what the fishing industry would think about the possibility of throwing the agreement out of the window and getting back to the renegotiating table were the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends ever to regain power and fulfil their commitment to come out of Europe and tear up all the agreements that have been made within the European Community. The fishing industry would regard that as a very bleak outlook.
We now have an agreement that has been welcomed—I put it no higher than that—as acceptable by the leaders of the industry. I am surprised that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West, with his pretended knowledge of the character and people of the north-east of Scotland, does not realise that for Willie Hay, who is a constituent of mine, to say that the agreement is "nae so bad" is a fulsome welcome indeed. I assure the House that that is by far the most effusive welcome that one can expect from people in the north-east, whether they be fishermen or farmers. I know Willie Hay very well. He might read Hansard, and I am quite willing to face him with that assertion.
With the greatest respect to Fishing News, I do not think that the poll was significant. It was disappointed with the response that it got—not with the result but with the rather ambiguous replies.
I turn to the opinion of Fishing News on the agreement. Gilbert Buchan, who is the most respected leader of the fishing industry, has laboured long and hard for an agreement in Europe alongside different Ministers. I am sure that Mr. Buchan will forgive me for revealing that he told me he was a long-time Labour voter. Gilbert Buchan said that he would have been ready to talk and if possible to reach agreement by giving a little bit more.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for allowing me to discuss Scottish politics. Most of Gilbert Buchan's statements have been directed towards the fishery organisation for which he purports to speak.
It is clear that Gilbert Buchan is now the father figure and elder statesman of the fishing industry. We often hear elder statesmen making statements of greater veracity than do some statesmen who are not quite so old and who have not retired. He has retired as the president of the Scottish Fishing Federation.
I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Nobody in this House would disagree that Gilbert Buchan is an honest man. He says what he thinks without fear or favour.
I shall not rake over the ashes of the past to see whether anything else might have been. The evidence suggests that, had an agreement been reached sooner, we would have been worse off. I disagree slightly with my hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) in this matter. When the Government came to power the catch quota on offer in the Berlin talks, which was agreed by the other eight members, was 31 per cent. We have now achieved 37·3 per cent. although many say that it is 37·5 per cent.
I do not wish to exaggerate. We were always asking for and ever demanding more. I remember clearly—I do not need any hon. Member to remind me of the fact—that as a candidate I had a sticker on the back of my car saying "50-mile limit". I wanted that.
How often do the Opposition's friends in the trade unions initiate negotiations by asking for an amount that they will accept? We always ask for more. I never knew a farmer, when bargaining over buying a cow, to accept the figure that is first put forward. That is a negotiating position. That is well understood. The right hon. Member for Western Isles, who is laughing, knows that.
I sympathise with my hon. Friend, but I was implying that, had the same approach been adopted in the earlier stages as was latterly adopted, and had the agreement that has finally been reached, come about several years earlier, surely that would have been better for all of us.
I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. However, the tragedy was that we did not have the people before. Had we had the same people then, there is no doubt that we could have achieved an equally good, or perhaps even better, agreement. It is significant that, in the Government's fight for this acceptable agreement, they have maintained the industry at such a level that it can expand as the fish stocks expand and fulfil the quotas in the agreement.
The agreement will give a percentage quota which, if conservation agreements are fully kept, should provide for an expansion of the catch. The word "if" is important. Under the agreement we have far stricter and better control than under the previous agreement, because we have control of our own 200-mile area. The coastal state is under our control. There seems to be a misconception that the owner of any foreign vessel found fishing within that area cannot be prosecuted in Britain under this agreement. That is not true. My right hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong, but we have the power to prosecute foreign vessel owners in this country under this agreement, although not under the national measures that obtained while we were negotiating the agreement. The owners need not return to the state under whose flag they fish.
The agreement should also allow boat building to be restructured. The fishing boat building industry has been going through a difficult period in recent years. Perhaps it is worth quoting the manager of a Buckie shipyard—Jones of Buckie—Mr. John Richardson:
Local fishermen seem a lot more confident now that a European Common Fisheries policy is settled. Recently there had been a marked increase in the inquiries about new boats and I'm very hopeful of our gaining further orders this year.
I welcome the fact, as I represent a constituency that has a substantial fishing boat building industry, that the agreement will provide the employment that is so necessary.
However, as many hon. Members have said, much remains to be done. The common fisheries policy will not settle the problem of low prices on the quayside. I welcome the initiative of the Sea Fish Industry Authority on marketing. I add modestly—although no one is ever modest here—that I may have been influential in setting up a meeting between Peter Seales, the chief executive of the SFIA, and Bill Marlow, the chief executive of the Meat Promotion Executive. They will meet soon to see whether some lessons from the promotion of meat by the Meat Promotion Executive can be taken on board by the SFIA. I welcome the fact that those gentlemen are talking, because it is only by discussing the matter that we can improve on the base that this agreement has set up.
Marks and Spencer is a great supporter of British industry, but it is sad that that institution, which has said so often that it will always buy British goods if they are of equivalent value and standards to other goods, gets its fish from Denmark. I have already told one of my local fish processors, who has shown great initiative in expanding his business with the help of the Scottish Development Agency, the Government and FEOGA grants from Europe, that it is high time that he went after the Marks and Spencer order. It is on the table for him to pick up if he can fulfil the quota, standards and continuity of supply that that great organisation requires.
I now come to a rather difficult point. The industry must stick together. Of course, there are conflicting interests within the industry, but I appeal to those who threaten breakaways to stick together. With this basis of agreement on which we can build, it would be tragic if the industry's representatives were to lose much of their influence with the Government by failing to resolve their internal differences. In a democracy, a minority can always make its views known, but in this case the minority can best make its opinion felt within the present structure rather than by breaking it up, as the right hon. Member for Western Isles, who has now left the Chamber, seems to wish. That is the devious and despicable way in which the Scottish National Party tries to buy popularity—by encouraging minorities to break up organisations and by trying to divide and conquer.
The right hon. Gentleman continues to boast that the Western Isles was one of the few areas to vote to stay out of the Community. I visited the area with the Select Committee on Agriculture, inquiring into support for less favoured areas. We spoke to the people there and asked them what they thought. All the time they said "For goodness sake, give us more." It has been rudely and unfairly said that the Army salutes like this, the Navy salutes like this, the Nazis saluted like that, but the people of the Western Isles salute like this. It is rather unfair to say that, but we must recognise that the Western Isles has benefited more from our membership of the Community than any other area.
I am grateful to you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I was slightly doubtful about the propriety of that remark myself. I hope that I made it clear that I felt that the gestures were unfair to the admirable people whom I met in the Western Isles. However, I must carry on and tell the right hon. Gentleman that many of those to whom we talked—he is held in very high regard there, which I could never quite explain, although it must be his charm—told me categorically that when the right hon. Gentleman stood up and said "We must leave Europe and"—the other matter that his party frequently raises—"we must get rid of the South Uist Army firing range", they shudder because, as they said "Those are the two things that maintain the prosperity of a vast number of the people in the Western Isles".
I was interested in the fishermen's charter, as described by the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West, who also seems to believe that it is best to stay away from most of this debate so that he does not hear the home truths.
I am grateful to the hon. Member for Waltham Forest (Mr. Deakins) for putting me right in that regard.
It seems to me that the only way in which the fishermen's charter, as described by the hon. Gentleman, can be afforded would be by the kind of economic management that has been shown by this Government.
All in all, this settlement will come as a great relief for the Scottish fishing industry and for those who depend on it for their livelihood. I am sure that I speak for the vast majority of my constituents when I say that.
Conservative Members have complained of partisanship in the official Opposition's approach to this debate. They have only the Minister to blame. The right hon. Gentleman opened the debate with one of the most partisan speeches that it has been my misfortune to listen to in this House. It was partisan in its description of history. I am certain that the industry will be unimpressed by the fact that the Minister chose this occasion simply to trawl over the events of the past 10 years without attempting to elucidate the areas of doubt, to chart the way ahead for the industry or to answer any of the questions raised by the industry since the announcement of the settlement last week.
The most remarkable of his partisan remarks was his wholly unfounded attack on my right hon. Friend the Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). It was a personal attack of which he gave my right hon. Friend no warning, and which I greatly resent. The Minister owes the House an apology, and I hope that he will take the earliest opportunity to make it for misleading the House on a series of important facts connected with The Hague agreement.
First, the agreement was not negotiated, as the Minister said, by my right hon. Friend. At that time, my right hon. Friend was Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, not the Secretary of State, as the Minister suggested. Secondly, far from the conclusion of the agreement having resulted in throwing away a negotiating hand—an assertion that the Minister made on an earlier occasion—The Hague agreement has provided this Government with the foundation for and basis of the provisions under which they have invoked national measures to protect the British fleet during the negotiating period. That was extremely important to the industry and, it must be said, to the present Government in conducting the negotiations.
Thirdly, The Hague agreement was reached by the late Anthony Crosland, who was the Member for Grimsby. He was a man for whom the fishing industry was almost his reason for being in politics. The idea that he would have thrown away the negotiating position to protect his own industry will be seen as completely unworthy. It is a charge that should never have been made.
Will the hon. Gentleman concede that when the deal was done by the then Member of the Labour party—regardless of his name—and the 200-mile limit came into being, the Irish insisted on an increase in their quotas? Nevertheless, that Labour Member, who led the discussions, made no effort to gain any additional quotas for Britain. That is why we failed to gain at that time, and Ireland gained substantially.
All I can say is that the conclusion of The Hague agreement, which was reported to the House on 2 November 1976 and is in Hansard at c. 1206–10, makes it plain that not only did the Government of the day regard it as a considerable achievement to have obtained an agreement to extend the fishing waters of the Communiy to 200 miles throughout the European pond, but that the agreement was wholly welcomed by the Opposition. The present Foreign Secretary, who was then the spokesman on agriculture and fisheries matters, asked my right hon. Friend the Member for Devonport:
Is the Minister aware that we welcome the agreement to move the limits and are pleased that that has been achieved?" —[Official Report, 2 November 1976; Vol. 918, c. 1207.]
The right hon. Member for Cambridgeshire (Mr. Pym) certainly did not regard it as a mistaken diplomatic manoeuvre. He regarded it as an achievement—and rightly so. It has been the basis of the protecticn that the industry has enjoyed under the national arrangements which have persisted since then. It is a pity that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chose to repeat that canard today for purely partisan reasons.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) that the question as to whether this agreement is satisfactory is one that the future will reveal. At this stage it is impossible to be wholly certain about a number of aspects of the agreement. It is a pity that neither the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food nor his deputy has chosen to remain in the Chamber at this point and have left the Front Bench almost empty, because there are a number of questions which fall to be answered and to which the industry is seeking replies.
First, the virtue of any common fisheries policy—both Labour and Conservative Governments have striven for 10 years to get one—must be that it improves the prospects for conservation. It is not feasible for effective conservation measures to be taken on purely national lines. The Labour party, which is now committed to taking Britain out of the Community, has never faced the fact that if we left the European Community the future of our fishing industry would be in the hands of the remaining members of the Community.
The hon. Gentleman is flying in the face of the evidence. All the evidence is that nations with coastal control, particularly with the extension to 200 miles, can control the conservation measures. Iceland is a perfect example of that. However, when there are international agreements, whether within the Community or outside it, agreements on quotas are often not observed and that leads to the decline of stocks. I know of no area on which there has been international agreement about fishing stocks where it has been possible to achieve conservation.
The geographical location of Iceland is somewhat different from that of the United Kingdom. Our contiguity with the waters of continental Europe makes it essential to have agreement with those countries to ensure that they do not overfish. Unfortunately, fish are no respecters of boundaries drawn on maps. Breeding grounds may be on one side of the line while catching grounds are on the other. That is the predicament that we face and that is a principal reason for welcoming an agreement.
The Minister has done a good job in reaching agreement on the total allowable catches. I have no doubt that the negotiations were hard and that the end results were as good as could reasonably be expected and better than many on the fishing industry believed likely. That is not to say that individual fishermen and, indeed, fisheries organisations at different times in the negotiations would not have wished for a better deal. No doubt they did and no doubt that was argued for. It certainly was argued for by the Labour Government. However, at the end of the day the allocation of catches in the seven principal species seems to me to be essentially fair.
It is an achievement to have reduced the historic rights of access to fish in our coastal waters to the extent that they have been reduced and to have opened up new access to the continental fishing grounds for our domestic fleet. Those arrangements have been accepted by the industry, but considerable ambiguities remain about what brought Denmark to conclude an agreement. In particular, there are the 20,000 tonnes of mackerel. It is essential that, when he replies, the Minister should give the industry the assurance that it is seeking that that will not be taken from west Scotland mackerel.
Furthermore, the Minister should specifically answer the question that has been raised by the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations about the 2,000 tonnes of North sea cod that have been offered to Denmark for three years under a separate regulation. That is said to be a one-off gift, and the Minister has asserted that the practice will be terminated automatically after the expiry of the regulation and that it is not the subject of review. It is not clear to the industry that that is the case. If it is, it is up to the Minister to be more categoric than he has been so far.
Other anxieties persist, notwithstanding the Minister's jubilation last week about the implications of the special measures accorded to Denmark. The provision for a Commission review each October of the uptake of national quotas is a cause for concern, because it might preclude the United Kingdom from negotiating bilateral exchanges of plaice and whiting for cod and haddock. It has been put to me by Nigel Atkins of the NFFO that Denmark and the Netherlands could conceivably seek to fish their quotas of whiting and plaice within the first nine months, confident that tonnages will be transferred at no cost from the United Kingdom allocation. Those are points of considerable uncertainty.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland spoke of the Shetland box. I do not wish to do more than endorse his inquiries and ask that the Minister answer them. It is widely considered that that is the most unsatisfactory aspect of the deal. Although the Council of Ministers seems to have adopted the idea of the Shetland box as a conservation measure, it does, on the face of it, look to be rather like window dressing. It has been put forward, apparently by the Commission, with the purpose of promoting rational exploitation of biological resources, bearing in mind the social and economic needs of the fishermen in that region. However, the difficulty is that the licences apply only to the larger vessels over 25 metres, and the number of licences to be handed out is so great that it will not cut down fishing. France is to receive 52 licences but will need to build more boats of the kind she uses near Shetland in order to keep a fleet of 50 vessels fishing there regularly. The important point is that it will be open to France to keep 52 boats fishing there all the time, and Britain and Germany have enough licences to increase considerably the amount of fishing that is done in the Shetland box. That is an unsatisfactory situation. I hope that it lies within the Government's power to alter the licensing arrangements to ensure that overfishing does not take place there.
I had hoped that the debate would provide the opportunity for the Government to say how they propose to secure the economic base of the industry in the future. It is regrettable that, having achieved the settlement of the fisheries policy, they have not seen fit to say what shape they see the industry taking in the next decade. It lies very much in the Government's hands to determine that. The money that has been made available under the regulation on restructuring is extremely limited—£140 million—and we do not know how it is to be spent in Britain.
We do not know what priorities the Minister has in mind for the industry. It is not sufficient for the Minister to say that he proposes to consult the industry and hear its views. The Minister has overall responsibility and should have his own views. He will have to reconcile considerable differences of opinion within the industry itself—differences not only within the Scottish fleet but resulting from the condition of the industry in different ports. In particular, the Humberside ports are in a parlous condition, as several hon. Members have made clear. The ports of Hull, Grimsby and Fleetwood have, as a result of the loss of Icelandic fishing, seen a complete alteration, almost a decimation, of their fishing effort. It is surely right that money should be made available to promote the fishing effort in those ports.
It is also right, as I said in a short intervention earlier, that those who have been driven out of the industry over the past 10 years and received no compensation because they were held to be ineligible for redundancy payments under the Redundancy Payments Act 1965 should receive payment under the Commission's proposals. I noticed that the Minister tried to slough off this matter and said that it was for the Secretary of State for Employment. As the sponsoring Minister for the fishing industry, he must take a line on this. He cannot simply hide behind his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment. This matter involves a relatively small number of people—hundreds not thousands—and it is right that the Minister should act upon the permissive legislation of the Community to give financial assistance to such people. I hope that their long overlooked rights will be acted upon.
I put it to the Minister that one of the top priorities should be to seek to assist the industry to adapt itself to the need for quality improvement. Our industry's capability to land quality fish is not as high as it should be in all the ports. The installation of proper refrigerating and handling equipment would be of great service. In addition, money should be made available both to the vessels and to research institutes for investment in fuel-saving techniques. Fuel costs have undoubtedly been the single most burdensome problem to face the fishing industry.
Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland, we in the north of Scotland have been appalled by the remorseless rise in fuel prices, despite the fact that international oil prices are apparently being cut. It is extraordinary that petrol prices should rise by 5p to over £2·15 a gallon in the north of Scotland. Apparently, the Government are just standing by doing nothing. However, the Government must be given some credit for achieving a framework within which the industry could prosper, and that is why we shall support them in the Lobby tonight.
Nevertheless, I say that with qualified enthusiasm. Not all the credit for getting the framework right goes to the Minister. Considerable credit must be given to those of our European partners who assisted in the negotiations. I have my doubts whether the Minister has the measure of the difficulties facing the industry. I do not propose to say any more about the problems of Humberside, but it must be recognised that we cannot go on with an unregulated industry, in which the rise and fall of sectors is left purely to market forces. In an industry based on diversity of effort and on differing conditions, we cannot allow those sections that are under particular strain to die and then wring our hands and say that it is just too bad. That is what has happened on Humberside, and it has happened under both Labour and Conservative Governments.
Mr. Paul Genny, who led that delegation, has taken more interest in the problems of the Grimsby fleet than the Member of Parliament for that area, who has not attended this debate for a minute. It is 7.45 pm and the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) has not even turned up. The views of the fleet have been made clear to me by fishermen in Grimsby, and they have also been made clear to the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East. They both had the courtesy to listen to what the fishermen had to say.
As I well know, my hon. Friend the Member for Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) has been an assiduous Member of Parliament on matters affecting the fishing industry. He has been on my back often enough, and he has been on the Minister's back even more, pushing the case for Grimsby and its fishermen. He sent me his apologies for not attending the debate. He is a member of a parliamentary delegation, for which arrangements were made many weeks ago. I thought that that was known. If it had been humanly possible, my hon. Friend would have been here. He expressed his regrets and apologies to me, and I am glad of this opportunity to inform the House. However, I am sorry about the tone of the comments that made it necessary for me to intervene.
I am only sorry that the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) felt it necessary to intervene to make a partisan point. The hon. Member for Grimsby does not have to apologise to the House. He has his constituents to look after. If he chooses to be a member of a parliamentary delegation, it is a matter for him.
The Government's "stand back" attitude to the management of the fishing industry is no longer appropriate. It may have been appropriate when the high seas were open to hunters of fish throughout the world. However, as our waters are confined, we cannot allow the fleet to expand—as the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) wisely said—without any control or regulation. I hope that the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West implied that the view of the official Opposition was that it was necessary to intervene to protect those who have been injured by an unregulated industry and to ensure that the depredations of one section of the fleet do not damage another section. There is a particularly bad example of that at present.
The Government have been waiting for the conclusion of a common fisheries policy before acting on the recommendations of the inshore legislation committee. Its report, prepared by officials at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland, puts forward proposals on how the waters round the Scottish coast should be divided between different sectors of the industry. The damage being done to the static gear section of the industry—which is responsible for shell fishing—by pelagic trawling that is effectively unregulated is incalculable. The Government have stood by and allowed it. Pelagic fishing has been reopened at a time of year when the creel fishermen make their largest catches. The excuse is that it will provide a continuity of supplies to processors in this country. However, the fish caught are apparently going to the klondykers and to the Russian boats which are standing off in the Minch.
Those pelagic trawlers are trailing away hundreds of creels at enormous cost to the fishermen. It is a scandal. It was brought to the attention of the Minister of State, Scottish Office at the end of December that it was a distinct possibility. That it did not happen on a large scale before this week is due only to the extremely bad weather, which has prevented fishing. However, in the past few days awful devastation has been wrought. The Government should not have waited for the conclusion of the common fisheries policy. They should have settled t le matter earlier. I understand that the Government are now waiting for the opinion of the Scottish Fishing Federation to be given at the end of the month. The Government should have set a tighter timetable. It was predictable that this month would be a month of great difficulties. Furthermore, it is one reason why a substantial section of Scottish fishermen do not see the Scottish Fishing Federation as representative of their interests.
Like other hon. Members, I regret the division developing in Scotland between different sections of the industry. Scotland, which takes about 60 per cent. of the total fishing catch in the United Kingdom, should speak with a united voice. If it is to do that, the interests of all sections of the Scottish fleet must be represented by the relevant bodies. I do not criticise them, but I criticise the Government for not being active when the warnings were sounded.
Does my hon. Friend agree that more than Scottish waters are involved? Is he aware that there is considerable anxiety in south-west waters because the Government take such a long time before taking action on klondykers? They appear to require evidence of illegal action long after it has been committed. That causes considerable concern in the southwest.
I agree. I chose the Scottish example because it involves my constituency, is well known to me and illustrates a general point. It is not good enough for the Government to say to the creel fishermen that they should invest large sums, which some do not have, in apparatus that gives notice of where such ventures are taking place.
One of the Minister of State's more ludicrous suggestions was that lines should be laid up to five miles out to sea so that the creels can be drawn in when the trawlers come heaving into sight. The Minister appears to have neither a knowledge of the industry nor a willingness to learn.
I hope that the recommendations by the inshore legislation committee will be acted upon. I do not approve of all the recommendations, because they are too restrictive in the provision of waters for the creel fishing industry, but it is important that the Government act—and act soon.
It is also important to recognise that in some parts of the country fishing has an importance to the local economy out of proportion to its importance to the national economy. For social reasons, it is important that the Government recognise the predicament of peripheral maritime areas. In making dispositions for the restructuring of the fleet and in making money available, the Government should attach weight to that. Islands and remote communities on the mainland are particularly needy. Long after North sea oil ceases to make an important contribution to the local economy, fishing must and will make a major contribution. That is a prime need, but the Minister has never shown his awareness of it.
The industry always has to rely upon limited stocks. Traditionally it is a hunting industry. It is important to do more about stock enhancement. We must do more about experimentation, not only with flat fish but with the breeding of fish, such as cod. The Norwegians are doing it—and we can do it.
We must not cut back on our limited research efforts. I understand that there is a threat to the research vessel based at Lowestoft and that the Rayner committee has proposed that there should be cuts at the Torry research laboratory. Such suggestions are retrograde to our needs. I hope that the Minister will give firm assurances that, far from cutting that effort, the Government intend to increase it.
The Government have paid lip service to the idea of promoting fish. I was disturbed at what the Minister said today. I understand that the Sea Fish Industry Authority proposed that £3 million should be spent on the marketing and promotion of fish but that the Government rejected that proposal. Perhaps the Minister thought that it would involve pouring money into vague advertising schemes for fish, although he did not specifically say that. I hope that the Minister is not simply wielding an axe yet again.
The common fisheries policy could provide a basis for marketing that would enhance the industry's prosperity. In the last decade that has not been done. The import of fish from third countries has disrupted prices on a number of occasions. We now have a pricing mechanism that is more likely to be effective. The industry will take some convincing that the guide price arrangements are sufficient and high enough to ensure a proper bottom for the market. I hope that the Minister will look urgently at the need to adjust the guide prices.
The industry has laboured with uncertainty for 10 years. That has contributed to its decline—in some ports a sharp decline. I hope that the Government accept that, in supporting them tonight, we have the best interests of the industry in our hearts and minds. We hope and believe that it is possible for the industry to take off, given backing from the Government, necessary restructuring and a willingness by the Government to shape the fishing effort throughout all our waters.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) made some important points, the most realistic of which was that he regarded the agreement with qualified enthusiasm. If the Minister can get the hon. Gentleman to go that far he has done well. Naturally, the Opposition seek to create dispute. I can understand that in light of the Labour party's general view, about which we read in the newspapers, which is that we should leave the Common Market. It is natural for them to table such an amendment.
I agree with the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland when he says that more conservation will result from the agreement. That is important. The right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) Intervened to explain the overfishing of mackerel in south-western waters by klondykers. Some of them come from Scotland and sell their entire catch to Russian vessels standing off just far enough to ensure that they are within the law. Our mackerel fishermen using the hand line system are not happy about that. Others who have expressed unhappiness have been my shellfishermen, whose pots have been interfered with by trawlers at various times—usually foreign trawlers.
I have always wondered why one should allow certain fishing boats to concentrate upon fishing purely and simply for manufacture. If fish landed does not fetch a reasonable price if sold for human consumption, I see no reason why it should not be used for fishmeal or other products. Fishing deliberately for manufacture, however, is opposed to the interests of the conservation of the species.
I also note that although there are quotas for various species of fish there is, unfortunately, no quota for sprats. If sprats are not on quota there will be, and indeed is, a tendency for overfishing of sprats when a boat has reached its quota of some other type of fish. That may well interfere with the breeding stock of sprats and so put in jeopardy a species that, in certain ports, is very valuable.
I have been asked about a racket that is growing up in the south-west. I do not know whether it occurs in other parts of the country. It appears to be possible for what amount to Spanish vessels to be registered so long as they employ two or three British crew. Unless something is done about this, the Danes could get round all the measures we have laid down by manipulating the registration of boats. I understand that under the minimum requirements for registration the presence of only two or three British crew on a trawler qualify it as a British boat and therefore permit it to fish. While we are a member of the Common Market, I should hate to feel that our fishermen were being put out of employment by such a development.
The general fishing bodies appear to have accepted a reasonable agreement. They wanted a certain amount, and our quota of the seven edible species is to be 37·3 per cent. This seems to be generally accepted by the representatives of British fishermen. Certainly there has been no outcry in the south-west against arrangements of this kind and the fishermen seem reasonably happy with the agreement.
I agree with the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland that these measures should lead to greater conservation—so long as we all work together. As has been pointed out, it is difficult to maintain and police quotas. Nevertheless, we must ensure that any gaps are closed. The agreement should be properly policed to ensure that the quotas are observed. I believe that it is a good step forward towards proper fish conservation and that in the fairly near future we may even see the return of the herring and other species which, due to lack of conservation in the past, have become almost extinct.
A great deal has been said today about the agreements themselves and whether people were right to say what they did a few years ago and whether what they now say can be measured against that. Realistically, we all recognise that during negotiations people may feel that they must be firm, although at the back of their minds they are prepared to accept something less than that on which they publicly insist. Nevertheless, there are resolutions of the House against which to measure the agreement. I fully support the Opposition amendment, if only because the agreement in no way covers the consequences suffered by the Humberside fishing industry which depended so heavily on third country waters and was promised compensation.
I intend no discourtesy to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, but if the Minister or the Minister of State comes into the Chamber I may well repeat one or two of my remarks. Measuring what has been achieved against what the House agreed takes one's mind back to the debate on 9 December 1981. Until then, the House had agreed on a 12-mile exclusive zone and a 50-mile preferential zone with compensation for third party waters. However, the Government's amendment in that debate, as compared with the Opposition motion, showed that the Government were beginning to change course. They no longer mentioned the 50-mile limit but simply referred to securing an exclusive limit, without any commitment to the position adopted in the earlier joint resolution. We were therefore right to point out that the Government were changing course and shaping themselves to accept less than that which they had previously proposed both in opposition and in government as the minimum acceptable to the House and to themselves.
The Secretary of State referred to The Hague agreement. It is a bit much that conclusions are constantly drawn from that agreement when I gather that the important appendix 7 is available neither to the House nor to the Government, making it impossible to judge the challenge that certain agreements were made behind closed doors about understandings on quotas in the negotiations. The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) said that in those negotiations the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen) simply sought to extend rights in the 200-mile limit with the agreement of the Community to cover necessary conservation in areas up to that limit.
The report of that debate is the publicly available source of evidence to which the Secretary of State referred, but it is clear from the general debate around the statement made by the right hon. Member for Devonport that what was really exercising the Labour Government's mind was the difficulty of negotiations with Iceland. The then Foreign Secretary, Anthony Crosland, believed, although I disagreed entirely, that joining the European Community would mean that we could use the strength of the Community to force Iceland to agree terms.
Quite frankly, most of us rejected that, both in the referendum and in the negotiations with Iceland. I supported Iceland's case because it was right at that time. There was little support from the House but I supported it because the best position, for Britain's interests, was to declare an Iceland on the Community and take up to its own 200 miles. That was clearly what was happening, although unfortunately the prevailing thinking of Anthony Crosland and presumably the thinking of the right hon. Member for Devonport was that, by securing this understanding, we would be able to pressure Iceland as one of the third party countries. The attempt failed, as some of us predicted it would fail.
Let us be clear about it—the point has been made by the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland—no agreement was achieved about tonnages. The Berlin agreement has been referred to. It is clear that, if eight nations get together and one does not turn up, there is no agreement. One cannot change or secure any agreement without all participating in the agreement. It is nonsense to drag in the Berlin agreement and I hope we shall hear no more about it when the Minister replies.
Has the agreement been a triumph? What criteria are we to use? If we examine the total tonnage available in the EC in 1980, we find that 3·665 million tonnes was caught at a value of £744 million. Sixty per cent. of that tonnage—that was the figure often used in the House; 60 per cent. being the amount of fish in the British waters of the Community waters—would have given us a tonnage of 2·2 million at a value of £446 million. The 37 per cent. that the Government say they have negotiated would give an equivalent on these figures of 1·3 million tonnes, or a value of £275 million. Consequently, the 23 per cent. difference is equivalent in value, according to these figures, to £171 million per year. That is the price we are paying to join the Community's fishing policy. We are giving more than we receive. It is an old formula in the Community and, in this case, one figure gives us £171 million, the price of the privilege of joining the common fisheries policy.
However one measures the 1982 total allowable catches for the seven species, it would seem that the value would be an approximate difference of £40 million. Whether the figure is £171 million or £40 million—perhaps the Government will be able to give us some estimates, because presumably they have an idea of what they were giving away in the negotiations—the Government are paying for the reconstruction not only of our own fleet but of those of everyone else in the Community from what it is costing us to join the Community agreement.
If the Government disagree with the figures, presumably they will have some idea what they are. Will they please tell us what it is costing the British fishing industry for the privilege of joining the Community fishing industry? Everyone is agreed that we are not receiving all the fish that we could possibly get out of it. Clearly the old Common Market price is prevailing.
On those criteria, we have not got 60 per cent. In case I hear again the question, "What would you do if we were given all the 60 per cent?", I will say that it can be sent to Hull, because we are in dire straits. The Government have not succeeded in achieving the full total that we could get, although they have achieved 37 per cent., which is somewhat better then the 31 per cent. in previous negotiations.
In 1978, I and others produced a document called "Fishing into the Eighties". I was then a member of the European Assembly, to which the hon. Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) referred. In 1974, according to the industry, there were 3·9 million tonnes of fish in EC waters. In the United Kingdom 200-mile limit there were 2·3 million tonnes, or 60 per cent. In the United Kingdom 50-mile limit, there were 1·7 million tonnes or 44 per cent. of the total. It is a fair judgment, particularly for those who opposed Britain's entry into the Common Market, as I did irrespective of its other advantages, to say that our fishing industry will be damaged by our membership. If we had remained outside, we could have taken sufficient fish—admittedly a different mix, and we would have had to readjust our industry—from our own 200 miles.
In addition, we would have been in an important negotiating position with Norway and other countries to negotiate even extra stocks in bilateral agreements that were denied us by the Common Market. So it is clear that membership of the Common Market is not advantageous for the fishing industry, and it is paying the price in more money being paid to the Community for the privilege of receiving less fish.
Each hon. Member can make his own judgment about the Common Market, but against those criteria the position is clear. The effect of the agreement has not been the same all over the country. The Secretary of State made it absolutely clear that other areas in Britain have expanded. That is undoubtedly true, particularly in inshore fishing, where there has been some expansion in the fleet, particularly in Scotland, as well as in some English ports. But that has not been the effect in the deep water ports, to which I shall address my remarks. It is the deep water effects with which we are concerned.
I should like to give some examples of the scale of the decline, and then compare that to the position of the inshore ports which are near my own area. For example, the deep water ports such as Hull were declining from the mid-1960s, even before our entry into the Common Market. Losing the Icelandic waters was a considerable blow. Canada was extending its areas and there were tremendous technological advances in freezer fleets, which were largely concentrated in the Humberside area. But, as my hon. Friend the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) pointed out, the fleet was in considerable decline. From 1970 to 1980, for every 100 ships at the beginning of the decade, we are now left with 10. For every 100 men we employed—11,000—we now have 10—1,000. The amount of fish caught has declined by 90 per cent. In 1971, Britain had 920,000 tonnes of fish, of which Hull had 166,000 tonnes, or 18 per cent. of the total. The value of that fish at the time was £18 million. That, multiplied by a factor of five to take account of inflation, gives a real value of £90 million today. But in 1981, British total tonnage has fallen to 680,000. Hull is down to less than 20,000 tonnes, giving a value of about £7 million.
The economy in Hull depends on an input of £90 million through the docks and is now trying to survive on £7 million. It is impossible to sustain any viable fishing industry on such a financial input. That emphasises the scale of the decline in Hull, but it is not true of all areas. Bridlington has, over the same period, doubled the amount of tonnage and has increased in real value by 25 per cent. the value of the fish. The same is true of Fraserburgh, where total tonnage has increased by 50 per cent. and the real value by 25 per cent. Many of the inshore fleets have expanded both tonnage and value of the fish, while quite the opposite has occurred at the deep sea ports.
That shows the great difference between the consequences of the agreement. The deep sea fleet is highly concentrated in certain areas. The small inshore fleet is dispersed around most of the United Kingdom. Therefore, what was of considerable consequence to Hull was the compensation for the loss of third country waters which was promised on our entry into the Common Market. Again, we can compare what occurred with the Community agreement.
Previously, it was agreed that compensation would have to be sought for 340,000 tonnes of third country water fish. In fact, compensation was obtained for 56,000 tonnes, but not 1 tonne of that compensation for third country waters came to Hull. The compensation has failed to meet any of the criteria. The Danes may be given 20,000 tonnes of mackerel and 2,000 tonnes of cod as a sweetener. Over the same period the Danish industry has expanded from 260,000 tonnes to 457,000 tonnes in 1981. The Danes are to be given a sweetener and their industry has increased its catch by 57 per cent. while the United Kingdom's catch has decreased by 30 per cent.
These are not good criteria against which to measure a claimed triumph. The Danes have been able to expand their fleet and so have the Dutch, despite the low quotas available to them. How have they been able to sustain a full fleet taking fish all the time? That has been achieved by breaking the quota agreement. This is readily admitted. Indeed, it has been admitted in the House. To add insult to injury, the Community pays compensation on the illegal amounts in excess of the quota agreement and is even prepared to consider quotas for the following year that are based on the excess catches.
A good example of the consequences of this sort of fishing is the collapse of the Hamling company, which constituted 25 per cent. of the freezer fleet in Hull. It was working with a Dutch company. The British ships were prevented from fishing while the Dutch and the German ships were allowed to continue to scoop out the fish. Nobody prevented them from doing so although the quotas should have stopped the fishing continuing. They were able to take the illegal catch to Holland and put it into the large freezers—I am talking about the company that was a partner of the Hamling company—and presumably they will be given export rebates for the fish because it is going to Nigeria.
When those in the industry in Hull and Humberside know that that activity is taking place, they cannot accept that the rules and the practice will change because of the new agreement. They cannot accept that other fishing fleets will begin to observe the agreement and that the 13 inspectors—it seems that they will have to be supermen—will be able to visit the hundreds of ports to prevent the illegal fish from coming in. It is not an acceptable proposition.
We hear from the Government that the industry is supporting everything that they are doing. We warned the Minister repeatedly of the consequences of their actions. When the Handing company went bankrupt, one of its directors, a Mr. Watson-Hall, paid a flying visit to the office to pick up some papers. It is reported in the Hull Daily Mail that he told a group of angry, redundant trawlermen that they were
out of work because of the Government and the EEC.
It is against that background that the Hull fishing industry will judge the agreement. Those who are near to bankruptcy will have difficulty in endorsing what the
Government have done, especially when they are asking for compensation. Mr. Watson-Hall's statement and others that have been made from within the industry are very different from those made by Mr. Austen Laing on behalf of the British Fishing Federation.
We hear many lectures about the Common Market but I and others fought the referendum to decide whether we should stay in the EC on the basis that it would destroy Humberside's fishing industry. We were laughed at and it was said that we were anti-Market. We argued that, irrespective of the advantages that were claimed from membership of the Community, the EC would destroy Humberside's fishing industry. It is no pleasure to know that truth was on our side. That is borne out by the catalogue of disaster on Humberside that I and others have highlighted.
We have seen a collapse of the Hull fishing industry. The earnings of the industry 10 years ago were £90 million on 1980 figures. Its earnings now are estimated to be £7 million. This has had a disastrous effect on the fishing industry and all the related industries, including shipbuilding, ship repairing, cold storage and ice machinery. It is estimated by the Yorkshire and Humberside economic board that every 1,000 tonnes of fish coming into Hull generates about 76 jobs. It is necessary now for Hull carefully to consider the optimum amount and value of fish to come through the port to sustain a viable industry.
Hull was told during the years of decline that it had to wait until an agreement was reached. The Government must now decide whether there is to be a fishing industry on Humberside, especially at Hull. I pay tribute to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—I cannot often do so—for the action that they took when they were approached by Hull council. The industry had bankrupted itself and could not sustain a landing capacity at Hull. The Ministers allowed Hull to use inner city money to enable a Hull catching and landing facility to be maintained. The Government recognised that it was necessary to meet heavy dock charges to give some assistance to an industry that could not maintain its infrastructure on the amount of fish coming into the industry.
That argument is equally applicable now to the dock problem and the maintenance of an under-used education structure. If the industry sinks below 10 per cent. of what it was 10 years ago, the education infrastructure could not be maintained and the training of officers, ratings, stewards, deckies and all the others involved in the industry will begin to suffer. This will happen because of a lack of throughput. Education cuts are severely reducing the training capacity that has been built up in the industry, which was a positive way of achieving a viable future for the industry.
I shall quote from a letter from the Hull Fishing Vessel Owners' Association Ltd. that is dated 18 February 1980. It is signed by Mr. Thomas Boyd. The letter was written after a meeting with the Prime Minister. The association hoped that there would be some agreement. Mr. Boyd wrote:
There was no one present at the meeting who was not delighted to hear that, after your bilateral discussions with the other EEC Fishing Ministers, you are most optimistic of achieving the United Kingdom's demands, namely, 45 per cent. of the EEC's Fish Pond's annual catch. This is most exciting news to us. We were also pleased to hear that you yourself would consider inadequate any offer from the EEC of less than this.
The association was left with the clear impression—I do not know whether it has been corrected by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food—that Hull had a future with the possibility of 45 per cent. of the annual catch. The agreement is not a triumph when measured against that earlier demand.
There has been a collapse in the fishing and freezing fleets. Hull has 22,000 unemployed, one of the highest rates of unemployment in Yorkshire and Humberside. The effect on the industry has been considerable and unique. No other area in Europe has been more directly affected by the fishing agreement than the port of Hull.
It is absolutely clear that Hull has not simply sat down and cried about its problems. It has tried to sustain an industry with a landing capacity. The local authority has set up a joint fishing committee, held discussions with EC Commissioners and opened negotiations with Iceland after the blacking of some years ago. Eventually, it was able to bring fish from that area back to Hull. The local authority has actively worked within the difficult remit of the Community, whatever its overall view of the EC.
The fleet has continued to decline, in spite of the money that has been made available—I think that the Minister said that it is now four or five times what was available under the Labour Administration. Nevertheless, there has not been sufficient compensation for the loss of fish from third country waters. Tonnage of fish, not money, is what is needed. The industry does not want only subsidies; it wants sufficient fish to maintain a viable industry.
It has been said that the men have not received any redundancy payment. As an ex-seaman, I know the argument well. If one signs articles on a ship for less than six months, the redundancy fund regards that as less than two years' continuity. Five men who have worked for Hamlings, which closed this week, came to see me. Between them, they have 128 years' service in that company. One of them has 37 years' service. Incidentally, some of them are not my constituents, but those of the hon. Members for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) and for Bridlington (Mr. Townend) who are ex-directory so they cannot be reached in urgent cases. I am in the telephone book, as all hon. Members should be, so they came to see me. I am happy to represent their case today.
There is an anomaly in redundancy payments. The Hull Daily Mail said that Mr. Hall, the managing director of Hamlings
revealed that he would be making a redundancy claim himself—and signing on the dole. 'I am now out of work and looking for a job.'
The difference between him and the men who came to see me is that he works ashore so he will qualify for redundancy pay. However, the seamen, who between them have 128 years' service with the company, are not entitled to a penny because they cannot demonstrate continuity of employment.
I hope that the Minister of State will listen and pass on what I have to say to his right hon. Friend the Minister. I hope that his dinner was a good one; he has ad long enough at it, and missed my contribution about Hull. As a direct result of the Icelandic agreement, the previous Labour Government accepted a deal for paying trawlermen compensation which I and other hon. Members from Hull drew up.
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Treasury opposed the payment of any such redundancy. We showed that it would be possible by demonstrating continuity of employment.
I am extremely grateful to my right hon. Friend the Member for Doncaster (Mr. Walker) who was able to get more than £250,000 from the Treasury for fishermen's redundancy payments, in spite of the difficulties of the official agreement. Unfortunately, that did not work out, as the Transport and General Workers Union tried to use the money to end the casual element of that work. The union hung on in the hope of getting an agreement which was not achieved and, in the meantime, the Treasury pinched the money back, so the trawlermen did not get their money.
To add insult to injury, the trawlermen must face the fact that the company has been paying into a redundancy fund upon which none of them will be able to claim. Since 1965, that fund must have had about £500,000 in it. Surely the Government must feel that they have a moral responsibility to consider that problem. The Minister of State might bear in mind that the money that has been collected for redundancy is not simply a Department of Employment problem. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has some influence over and responsibility for it.
I have attempted to show that the problems that Hull and Humberside face have been made most difficult by the agreement. The Opposition amendment alone justifies voting against the agreement. There is a way forward. The Labour party wants this country to leave the Common Market. It would be far better for the fishing industry if we did. There can be no doubt about that.
Within the EC framework, if we are to remain in it, how can we achieve the best possible deal for the fishing industry, bearing in mind the fact that we are obliged to work within the limits of the agreement? The Government must recognise that Hull is unique and has been especially badly affected. I am encouraged that, in a statement last week, the Minister said that Hull's deep sea fleet was badly affected.
An agreement over redundancy can be reached, irrespective of whether one calls it a severance payment as they do in the Merchant Navy, or whether some fund in Europe is found. The least that the House can do is find sufficient money to give the affected men some redundancy payment, although most of them would much rather still have their jobs.
The Government should recognise the special circumstances of the case. I shall make a special plea. A case arose over the weekend. It is only a minor part of what has occurred. Mr. Dodd, who worked in the fishermen's mission, has been out of work for two years because of the decline in the industry. He has found another job in London, but the Department of Employment has denied him the money to move his family to Cambridge, although the agreement has put him out of work. The Government could show some sympathy, and I will send them details of the case.
We are keen about the fishermen's charter of rights. I am glad that the Government are having discussions with the Transport and General Workers Union. There is room to be found in licensing agreements. A fair pricing system will have to be recognised, similar to the one in the common agricultural policy, although it will be equally costly.
The Minister knows that his Department is receiving a delegation from Hull. The town council has tried to get together to promote special action on the problems of Hull. The council is asking the Government to take special measures for Hull and Humberside's problems. The Government must act urgently, since otherwise whatever fishing capacity we have will be lost.
Much needs to be done with retraining. The Government could provide money for that. Money could be found from the Community. The Commissioners have told my council that they are prepared to finance a special study of the problems of Hull and Grimsby that arise directly out of the agreement. I hope that the Government will state that they are prepared to work with those forces on the special problems of Humberside. Most important, it is urgent that the unique problems of Humberside should be solved.
I shall not follow the same line of argument as that put forward by the hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott), who is opposed to the Common Market, but who suggested that money from the EC should be provided for Hull with all its problems, with which we sympathise. That was an odd argument. The hon. Gentleman is opposed to the EEC, yet he wants the Community to provide money for vessels in Hull.
I am sure that the hon. Gentleman is aware that one of the main reasons why the distant water fleet does not have fish is that we do not have distant waters. Until there are reciprocal agreements in distant water areas, it will be extremely difficult for us to suggest that the reason why there is a problem for the fleet is purely financial.
Last Tuesday, 25 January, was not only the anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland's bard, but a historic day for the fishing industry. It was on that day that agreement on the common fisheries policy for the 10 member states of the European Community was reached. That agreement concerns the seven main species, quotas, access, conservation, enforcement, structure and marketing. Hon. Members who represent large fishing constituencies, such as my constituency, Aberdeenshire, East, deeply appreciate the untiring efforts of my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Minister of State and the Secretary of State for Scotland to obtain that agreement. They were fully supported by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, who has consistently stated that no agreement would be acceptable to her or her Ministers that did not have the full support of the representatives of the fishing industry.
Members of the fishing industry spent thousands of pounds visiting Brussels to attend the talks over the three and a half years of the final negotiations. Their wise counsel was made freely available to and accepted by my right hon. Friends. I commend especially the representatives of the Scottish Fishing Federation, the Scottish White Fish Producers Association, the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association, the British Fishing Federation and the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations. I welcome the support of those organisations. The House should recognise the tireless work of Mr. Gilbert Buchan who is past president of the Scottish Fishing Federation and one of my constituents. The present president is Mr. Willie Hay, and it has been said that he was not in favour of the agreement. That comment has been explained fully by another of my hon. Friends.
Mr. George Sutherland, Mr. Sandy Baird and Mr. John West of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association and the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association have wide knowledge of the industry's need. They have had to sell the package to the fishermen and have been of considerable value to my right hon. Friends during the negotiations. I couple with those gentleman Mr. David Aichieson, former executive of the SFF, Mr. Bob Allen, the present chief executive and Mr. Roddy McColl, the director general of the Scottish White Fish Producers Association and of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association.
It was most frustrating for my right hon. Friends and the industry that the Danes proved so difficult. It meant that the CFP did not come into operation on 31 December 1982. It is to their credit that they have now seen the impossible position in which they would have been placed had they persisted in their demands. There was no way in which they would have won, as our Ministers and the industry had made it clear that we had gone as far as we would and that there would be no further concessions.
We must now look to the future. We must ensure that we have a united fishing industry. There is no point in recriminations about which party fell short of what was expected during the long negotiations. The fishermen want a secure future and catch quotas which will give them a good living in the years ahead. The failure of successive Governments to achieve a CFP has meant that many fishermen have been forced out of the industry and many more are up to their ears in debt from holding on in the hope that there would be a future for the fishing industry.
There has been an improvement in fish landings. The value of landings by United Kingdom vessels in Scotland for November 1982 was £14·9 million. That is most welcome. The total landings for the 11 months from January 1982 are £137·7 million which is an increase of 18 per cent. over the corresponding period in 1981. It is most commendable of the fishermen.
The CFP will help our fishermen even more. Of the seven main species of fish stocks, six provide more than 80 per cent. of United Kingdom landings. That will be enhanced if we can recover the herring stock. Great credit is due to our fishermen for accepting the restrictions that the Government had to place upon them for conservation reasons.
The quotas which have been obtained for the seven main species exceed all our fishing in the years 1973 to 1978, and for most of the stocks they are as great or even greater than the exceptionally high level of fishing in 1981. The average catch of North sea cod in the years 1973 to 1978 was only 85,000 tonnes. The quota provided under the new agreement is for 114,700 tonnes. The quotas provide the United Kingdom with 47 per cent. of the Community's North sea cod, 60·5 per cent. of the west coast herring and 58 per cent. of west coast mackerel.
Compared with the 10 member states, the United Kingdom has come off best in its proportion of the quotas for the seven main species. It has 37·3 per cent. That is equal to 60 per cent. of the fish in our waters. The other countries have smaller quotas and three of them have nil quotas.
The 37·3 per cent. gained by the United Kingdom can be seen as a success in the negotiations undertaken by the Government. It must be borne in mind that the Commission's first proposal, as has been illustrated by a number of hon. Members, was for only 31 per cent. of the seven main species. It is to the credit of my right hon. Friends that 6·3 per cent. has been gained for the United Kingdom at the expense of the other member states.
The question of access was one of the most difficult parts in the negotiation. The agreement guarantees that British fishermen will have a better domination of our coastal waters than has been available at any time in the history of the fishing industry. Up to 1964, Britain had a three-mile exclusive zone. When the London convention was adopted in 1964 the limit was extended to six miles and then to 12 miles. Agreement was reached with the member states as to what historic rights should be allowed within the six-to-12 mile limit.
Those rights were accepted by all countries involved in the London convention. We had to accept them until we joined the Community in 1973. Unfortunately, when we joined the Community, and later in renegotiations by the Labour Government, other EEC countries demanded and received a further extension of those historic rights, which diminished the catching capacity of our fishermen.
In the new agreement most of the Treaty of Accession rights will be eliminated. We have achieved a major improvement for our fishermen in that 72 per cent. of the coastline where historic rights previously existed will be eliminated. Added to the agreement is the provision for British fishermen to fish for all species in the six-to-12 mile area of the other members states, and we have safeguarded the box around the Shetland Islands by laying down that larger vessels that wish to fish there will require a licence so that important stocks in the area can be conserved. There will be no restriction on vessels under 80 ft in length, which is to the particular advantage of Scottish vessels. All the arrangements provide for a guarantee against increases in the intensity of fishing in an area of great importance to the Scottish fishing fleet.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) mentioned enforcement, which was one of the most important demands of representatives of the fishing industry during the early negotiations and throughout. It was accepted fully by my right hon. Friends. Protection had to be covered so that member states could not overfish their quotas or infringe their access provisions. The new agreement provides for a system that will ensure the effective control of fishing by all members states. The United Kingdom Government made the first proposals for enforcement. They set out clearly the obligation to ensure that Community regulations would be adhered to.
The United Kingdom Government will also be responsible for enforcement within our own pots and fishing limits. In addition, again at the United Kingdom Government's insistence, the Commission will establish a special unit whose specific task will be to ensure that the member states fully enforce their responsibilities for catch quotas. The unit will have the power of on-the-spot inspection and will be able to stop member state vessels from further fishing where there is reason to believe that the agreed quota has been exhausted.
I agree with the hon. Gentleman's argument in broad outline, but is there not considerable concern in the fishing industry that the unit's membership is too small? If there is to be effective Community inspection of national efforts, the staff must be substantially increased.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. I was intending later to say that the enforcement organisation must be enlarged.
To give weight to enforcement, substantial penalties have been fixed. Fines of up to £50,000 plus confiscation of very costly gear will be made when the offenders are caught.
We must establish with the Community that the fisheries directorate—I direct my remarks to the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan)—at the EC is strengthened if we are to be certain that the new agreement will be fully implemented and effective. I mean the directorate within the EC, as well as the policing of the waters.
For many years, our fishermen have been compelled to accept a conservation policy, due to the serious decline in certain stocks. The Government intend to have a new regime to meet some of the United Kingdom needs, and it will be established on a more permanent basis than the vital Norway pout box.
The industry has welcomed the improved marketing arrangements and hopes that they will provide a new stability to the markets for fish products. Consumers must also be encouraged to buy more fish. I want to see many more fresh fish shops opened in towns and cities, together with fish and chip shops instead of the many Chinese carry-outs that we have at present.
The structure plan will make available £140 million for various purposes such as scrap and build, vessel modernisation and the building of new vessels—I hope that orders will ne placed only with British yards—artificial reefs and exploratory voyages. The Community will finance 50 per cent. of all scrapping grants and 25 per cent. of the cost of vessel modernisation.
Now that the common fisheries policy has been agreed, the Government should give more attention to the onshore section of the industry, principally to the fish processors, who are in desperate need of assistance. It is sad that the Minister responsible for fisheries at the Scottish Office has not appreciated their pleas for assistance. The Government should also pay more attention to the fishing co-operatives that are doing a good job at the ports and should receive more encouragement.
Many appeals have been made to the Minister, but to no avail. It is all very well for the Minister to say that fish processors should pay the right price at the port for the fish. I assure him that there are many times when the ports pay over the odds for the fish just to keep their employees at work. In Fraserburgh last week, Mac Fisheries paid off 40 workers because of the problem in that industry.
I recently received a letter from the Scottish area manager of Mac Fisheries:
Your letter of the 17th January and the copy of Lord Mansfield's one dated 24th December arrived on a very appropriate day, the one when my company announced it was going to have to cease working on the night-shift, making 40 people redundant.
I must say that whilst I am not surprised that the Minister's letter contains little Christmas cheer, I find it incredible that a member of the Government can apparently be so out of touch with the state of the processing industry.
You will appreciate that my Company is in the process of updating and re-thinking its strategy at the moment, and once we have done this I will be in touch with you again.
In the meantime, can I thank you for your ever present efforts on our behalf.
The second-last paragraph bodes ill, and I hate to think that very shortly we shall hear again of further redundancies in that firm as well as in others. I trust that Ministers will examine that section of the industry seriously and see what can be done.
The Opposition amendment is, to say the least, a most childish attempt to cover up their failures. The same applies to the comments made about the common fisheries policy by Mrs. Winifred Ewing, a former Member of the House and a member of the Scottish National party. She claims that the fishing industry has been bought and sold. That is absolute rubbish and typical of the outpourings that we are accustomed to hearing from her and members of her party.
Mrs. Ewing is obviously not aware that when the negotiations for the CFP commenced, the right hon. Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin) said that there were no cards to play and no bases from which to play. To be fair to the right hon. Member, he did create a base, and it was from that base that my right hon. Friends concluded their agreement, by their able negotiations. It was only natural that the Labour party was sour at the success of the Government in gaining an agreement, and the Scottish National party—in the form of Mrs. Winifred Ewing—screaming from the housetops that the fishermen had been sold down the river. The confidence of the fishermen in her party was fully displayed on 3 May 1979 when they rejected her in the constituency of Moray and Nairn. She took herself off to pastures new. She did not even align herself with a British group to support the fishermen, but joined with foreign member states. That does her no credit. She must not think that she can con the Scottish fishermen with hysterical outbursts.
I cannot say that I am grateful for that intervention. Captain Kirk is a Social Democrat Conservative, whatever that may be. If I were a member of the EC, I would throw out Captain Kirk. I am delighted that he is having to pay a £30,000 fine for having the audacity to invade our beaches.
The Norwegians are stopping any member state fishing in their waters until a reciprocal policy is agreed with the EC. I sincerely hope that the Council of Ministers will reach agreement at an early date. My constituent Mr. Gilbert Buchan, who is a past president of the SFF, said recently:
We in Scotland say that the Norwegians are getting too much of our mackerel, too much of our herring, and to have an agreement with the EEC is what it is all about.
We must obtain a proper share of North sea herring. That has never been discussed by the Commission, and when it is we must insist that we have a normal percentage. That is especially vital for the town of Fraserburgh in my constituency, because it would allow the fishing industry to plan for the future. With no real markets for what little we catch of herring, there needs to be a drive to promote that species. That would suit Fraserburgh, which is badly
hit by unemployment. It is ideally situated both inshore and offshore for fish processing and port landings. We must ask for 35 per cent. of North sea herring when the fishing areas are reopened. If a safeguard is not agreed with Norway, it will mean that between 120 and 150 vessels could be tied up every day of the year. The inshore fleet at Fraserburgh would be affected by the offshore fleet, and all sorts of problems would arise.
The Opposition amendment should be rejected. It would be rejected by the fishermen who have praised the fact that the CFP has finally come into being. For the first time, the fishing industry will have the prospect of a stable and secure future. The Government can claim to have fulfilled their promises to the industry. All the moanings from the Opposition and the bawlings of Mrs. Ewing of the Scottish National party cannot refute that claim.
I said earlier, when I intervened in the speech of the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West, that there should be a wider scheme of training for young skippers. Adequate provision is not made, and if training cannot be provided by funds from the EC, the Government must think about financial aid. There have been far too many tragedies at sea involving young skippers. I am not suggesting that they in any way misbehaved, but the problems that arise, such as a sudden squall, mean that if they are not experienced their boats might sink. Unfortunately, we have seen a great deal of that in recent years.
The same applies to safety at sea. Ships do not carry sufficient hazard warnings. There have been several suggestions to the Department of Trade—which have not been thoroughly examined—to provide that when a vessel does go down there is some means of ensuring that its whereabouts can be identified. With the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland, I do not believe that the Tony research station should be cut in the way it has been.
I quote from the recent speech of Mr. Gilbert Buchan:
I encourage fishermen to keep calm at this present time which is critical for the industry. It is a time for keeping quiet and for watching and praying. Anybody who knows anything about life accepts that there has to be compromise between people using faith and hope".
That is what the Government have done over the past three and a half years. That is why we have a common fisheries policy today such as we have never had before. That should commend itself to the House and to the people of this country.
I welcome the prohibition in statutory instrument No. 1845 on
the fishing by any fishing boat for salmon in any waters within the British fishery limits, but excluding any part of those waters which are within 12 miles of the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea adjacent to the United Kingdom, Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is measured.
I am pleased with the first part of the sentence but not with the second. Will the Government complete the job? It is all very well to have a prohibition on the fishing for salmon beyond the 12-mile limit. For the preservation of our salmon stocks, more must be done. It is very clear, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) agreed with me in this matter, that the Government must act on problems such as acid rain, river pollution and the problem of poaching.
One of the most important subjects to which the Minister must address himself is gill netting. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) is doing his best to prevent the passing of legislation to prevent gill netting. If I represented as many poachers as does the right hon. Gentleman, I should probably do the same. It is important for our salmon stocks that gill netting is prohibited.
I draw the attention of the House to an article that appeared in yesterday's Sunday Times:
Citizens Bill: A Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Richard Milner.
It is an article worthy of examination by the House. If Mr. Milner were a Member of this House and fortunate enough to be successful in the private Members' ballot, he would bring in a Bill to
ban gill netting in inshore waters to protect immature and breeding fish,
prohibit the practice on wrecks and reefs within the 12-mile limit to prevent unnecessary carnage and marine hazard and
enforce these bans with minimum fines of £1,000 on conviction together with the confiscation of all nets, boats, cars and other equipment used by the illicit gill-netters. Only in this way can we protect the vital resources which sustain the ongoing industry.
The Minister will know that the damage being done to our stocks from gill netting is enormous. It is nor poaching in the traditional sense. It is not the taking of one fish. It is rustling in the Wild West sense, and it is destroying the stocks.
The Minister is to be congratulated on protecting salmon outside the 12-mile limit. When is he going to protect salmon as they come within the 12-mile limit and into our rivers?
We have had a fascinating debate and I apologise to those hon. Members who have taken part when, for reasons connected with a fisheries disease Bill that comes before a Committee on Wednesday, and other essential requirements, I had to be absent.
In the 12½ years that I have been a Member of the House, no hon. Member can be proud of the way in which we have dealt with the British fishing industry. Both sides of the House have raised expectations about what we could achieve that we knew in our heart of hearts could not be realised. One example was the Icelandic dispute, when the wholly honourable course taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) was in marked contrast to the chauvinism displayed by the rest of the House throughout the entire Community argument. I could quote 50 statements from hon. Members on both sides of the House, saying that nothing less than a 50-mile exclusion zone would do. I am as guilty as the Minister of State, who said on 21 December 1978:
It is exclusive zones first and foremost".—[Official Report, 21 December 1976; Vol. 923, c. 474.]
Too many of us, when we said those things and voted, knew that we could not deliver what we proffered to the fishing industry.
I am sorry to have to say that. Mutual blame exists in this matter, irrespective of party. Ministers in the Government whom I supported, and members of the then Opposition, including the present Foreign Secretary, said that we must have a 12-mile or 50-mile exclusive zone or bust. It was the call of the day for every politician, including the Scottish National party—
I have not listened in the European Assembly to Mrs. Winnie Ewing without knowing how stridently she argued for a 50-mile exclusive zone or nothing. All of us said it, knowing that it could not be negotiated.
We were faced by the fact that the technology of fish catching and the international law governing fishing had become totally out of alignment. With sonar, radio contact and all the other paraphernalia that became available to fishermen on a massive scale in the late 1960s, whether Icelandic, Norwegian, Faroese, Scottish, English or Welsh, the unskilled skipper who could not read the sea, the sky or the wind could use electronic equipment to find fish, and used the gear and the horsepower on his boat to scoop out those fish.
At the same time, there occurred one of the most pernicious biological arguments on the use of the resources of the sea that has ever afflicted any resource. It was that perhaps it was better to eat the fish as bacon and eggs. It is perfectly possible to say that to scoop it out and turn it into fishmeal, and to turn that fishmeal in Denmark, or wherever, and then into bacon and eggs, is a better use of the phyto-plankton energy than to allow it to be used as whiting, herring, cod, and so on, and that we enjoy our fish better as baon and eggs than as fish.
The damage to jobs and to fisheries that those operations and opportunities created was terrifying. Clearly, in the early seventies, the ability of the British deep-water fleet off Iceland to destroy the Icelandic regeneration of cod species had been reached. No one now, 10 years later, can seriously argue against the Icelandic Government's proper concern for the depletion of cod stocks around Iceland a decade ago. Equally no one can argue now that the capacity of British, Danish, German, Dutch, Belgian or French fishermen to destroy the herring stocks in the North Sea, the Irish Sea, and elsewhere was total. Indeed, they very nearly succeeded.
It was regrettable that the law still started from the basis of how far a cannon could shoot in 1620. It was still wittering on about three miles, which was the safe distance at which one could blow up a ship in 1620. At least, that was the theory. The reality was totally different. There was a legal paradox; that conservation was known to have to be international, and yet no international authority existed to enforce the essential conservation that was known to be required. That essential paradox and difficulty existed, whether or not we were members of the Community.
Let us consider the herring stocks. The autumn spawners spawn mostly between the shore and nine to 12 miles out, but the young fish spend the first year and a half of essential life off the Danish, Dutch and German coasts. When they come back, they do not have little flags on their tails to say "We were spawned in England or off the Farne Islands". One cannot have a conservation policy that is national, and ICES and all the other international organisations accepted that from the start. They understood, too, that one cannot enforce a conservation policy except through the national Government. That was the trap, independent of our membership of the Community, that faced the British Government some time in the late sixties or seventies. We should perhaps have negotiated it in the late 1960s. That is our difficulty. We missed that opportunity. We failed to recognise the technical availability of scientific knowledge on the flow of eggs and larvae and all the other information that our highly skilled scientific officers and other officers from ICES were providing for political judgment, with the necessary legal power to do anything about it. For us to take the unilateral position in 1967 or 1968 when the information was available would have been wholly impolitic and impractical.
Had we gone to a median line on conservation in 1968 to 1969 we would have thrown away not just our fishing rights in Iceland and the power to choose conservation methods and measures. We would also have thrown away areas that are still not wholly settled, such as our position in the Channel Islands, adjacent coasts and in the Isle of Man, and the French position in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and around Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and so forth. The reality of fishing biology and conservation came out of gear.
In the middle of that, we suddenly produced a total nonsense, which was the fisheries policy agreed under the Treaty of Accession under which we entered the EC. Anything more out of date, more anachronistic and more useless in producing a solution of the conflict of biological evidence and legal requirement than free fishing up to the beaches would be hard to find. Why any Government at any stage should either have accepted or failed to renegotiate that nonsense leaves me speechless. That is why I voted against our rearrangements in the referendum. Therefore, when we came to look at the problems facing any Government in coming to a common fisheries policy, we found that after 1 January 1979 all conservation was unilaterally transferred to the Commission. It did not exist in the international law of the sea at that time. How on earth can any Government have arranged to transfer the essentials of conservation to an organisation that had no legal status in the context of the law of the sea? It is an absurd position.
I must confess a slight interest as chairman of the European Assembly's fisheries committee. I happened to be in Berlin one evening early in January, expecting the British Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to turn up to discuss an agreement. I was not very good on a television interview with the Netherlands television service. My Dutch failed me in the first minute, never mind the last. It is clear from my recollection of the European Assembly's fisheries committee that senior Ministers of good will such as Jan de Koning, the Dutch Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Niels Kofoed, the Danish Minister of Agriculture, Brian Lenihan from Ireland, and others saw our difficulties. Although, in public, they would have to range themselves eight to one in favour, they would never say that our Minister was wrong to accept a rotten deal. They acknowledged that he had a legal right and a proper duty to reject that which he held to be unacceptable.
What have the Government achieved? The inshore fishermen of Morecambe bay who go in search of what I still call Dublin bay prawns—which others have to call nephrops and other such fancy names—will not be satisfied. The fisheries are at risk because of the access that has been given to French vessels between Point Lynas and Morecambe bay. In a political deal we have traded some fairly phoney and ill-proven historic rights with the French. It may have been necessary, but that does not make it acceptable.
How does the fisherman at Seahouses benefit compared with his colleague 19 miles up the coast at Eyemouth? At Eyemouth, the fishermen have 12 miles that are free of foreign vessels. However, the fishermen at Seahouses, with the rich herring grounds and the neighbouring Farne islands, have to compete with all but the Danish. In the crucial years in which benchmarks were used there is not much evidence that the area was a major fishery for French, Dutch, German or Belgian vessels. Access to many parts of the east coast and the Irish sea can be defended only in terms of a sordid political deal and not in terms of a serious acceptance of historic rights. I regret that I have to say that, because it means that English and Welsh inshore fishermen may well have been sold for a mess of potage.
There is no evidence that the inshore fishermen or the middle water fishermen can have any long-term confidence when it comes to the equality of supervision meted out. There is clear evidence that the enforcement of other countries is lax compared with our scrupulous enforcement, which is as harsh, if not harsher, with British infringements than with foreign infringements. That evidence means that it is difficult for fishermen to be confident in the even-handedness of present enforcement, to believe that the numbers of Community-based inspectors are adequate or that the courts will exercise their powers effectively.
Socialist groups in all member states reached an agreement seven or eight years ago. It was agreed that no conservation measures could succeed without licensing. I am glad to notice in the Chamber the hon. Members for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) who, curiously, voted in favour of licensing, but against the other parts of the proposal.
We must have licensing vessel by vessel, not licensing for patches. Without that there will not be sufficient conservation to satisfy the needs of the local communities. Let us be clear that a foreigner to the fishermen off Seahouses or West Hartlepool can be more than 20 miles from port. It does not matter whether he is Belgian, Dutch or Scottish. That is the reality. Let us make no bones about it: in the south-west and parts of Wales the Scots are known to be the villains. Our own countrymen, not the Belgians or the Dutch, are the villains. Unless there is licensing to give free access to United Kingdom citizens, free access will be given to pirates. That is what the fishermen believe. Unless we go for licensing, allied to catch capacity and the horsepower on the propellers or the deck, we shall never create the security necessary to support the industry.
In the last few weeks the industry has had to come to terms with a transformation akin to that which faced many hundreds of English villages in the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. I refer to enclosure. As a result people no longer have the right to hunt for their food on the common. Fishermen now have to come to terms with allocated quantities and places where they can catch their fish and earn their livelihood. Because the agreement fails to appreciate what the House said in the past about the long-term need for adequate conservation, I urge my right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the amendment.
The hon. Member for Durham (Mr. Hughes) made a thoughtful, well constructed and moderate speech. I wondered why he urged his right hon. and hon. Friends to vote for the amendment. Anyone objectively reading what the hon. Gentleman said will wonder how he came to that conclusion. The hon. Gentleman has experience of how the fishing industry is organised, and I do not disagree with him about that one whit. As he said, fish respect no boundaries. In northern Europe we cannot conserve our fish stocks and have a prosperous fishing industry unless management of fisheries is organised on an international basis.
In the 1950s and 1960s attempts at conservation were made through voluntary international bodies, with no sanctions or controls. Total allowable catches always went to the highest figure that the most greedy agreed. That policy led to the destruction of stocks, specifically herring stocks in the North sea.
There were two major fallacies in the hon. Gentleman's argument. He said that in those circumstances the Treaty of Accession was crazy. I agree that something was crazy, and I said so at the time—the policy cobbled together immediately before Britain, Denmark and Ireland joined the Community. The Treaty of Accession, however, was not so crazy, although I know that a number of Labour Members will never acknowledge that fact.
Specific provision was made in the Treaty of Accession for controlled access—exclusive access to six miles and limited access between six and 12 miles. That was clearly and firmly embodied in the treaty. In addition, objectives were laid down, and criteria for the formulation of policy at the end of the transitional period took account of many of the things mentioned by the hon. Member for Durham, such as fish stocks and the state of communities that are particularly dependent upon fishing, about which I agree with him.
That was the hon. Gentleman's first mistake. He failed to recognise the taking of a step—albeit a small step—towards a better and more effective fishing policy.
The hon. Gentleman made a second mistake. The agreement reached in Brussels on 25 January takes account of that policy and, in terms of the logic of the hon. Member for Durham, gives us a degree of control over stocks, exclusive access and of preference beyond the 12 miles that we have never had before. Even more important, it introduces a level of control and enforcement that has not existed before, and quotas, related to scientific advice, which give us the prospect of conservation and management, which is what the hon. Genleman wants, rather than free exploitation of the vital natural resources of the sea.
The hon. Gentleman's speech was reasonable, thoughtful and well laid out, but he was wrong on those two points, which are crucial to the debate. Because the fishing industry has taken a different view from the hon. Gentleman on those points, it has supported the agreement and asked us to accept it. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough (Sir M. Shaw) made the telling point that to delay when we had this opportunity would have been to jeopardise the future of our industry. For that reason, perhaps more than any other, my hon. Friends the Members for Banff (Mr. Myles), Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie), Bridlington (Mr. Townend) and I and many others from different parts of the country have emphasised the support given by the industry to the agreement.
The truth is that the Opposition regret two things. First, they almost wished—indeed, I believe that they did wish—to see fishing up to the beaches at the end of the transitional period on 31 December and, in a sense, were disappointed when it did not happen.
I was not being arrogant. I took the trouble to read the debate that took place in 1971. In speech after speech, Labour Members said that there would be fishing up to the beaches, but it did not take place. At that time, we had not agreed a common fisheries policy. Nevertheless, all the fears and scares that they set up were not justified in the event.
Secondly, I believe that the Opposition almost regret that agreement has been reached in Europe. I exempt some hon. Members from this, but it certainly applies to the Front Bench spokesmen. They almost regret that a common fisheries policy has been reached, which is the one safeguard for our fishing stocks and the future prosperity of our fishing industry.
The Minister knows, by definition and by statement after statement, that what he says is untrue. If he wishes to argue about the speeches in 1971–72, I should point out that the position that we took then has been justified by experience in the past six months. We said that as time went on such pressure would be brought to bear that the final agreement would let our industry down. That is exactly what has happened.
Secondly, we regret that the Government failed to use the strength that they claimed in their manifesto when they said that, if they could not secure the right kind of agreement, they would be prepared to go it alone to defend our waters. We would have supported them in that.
The hon. Gentleman is playing Jeremiah again. Nothing is more typical, and nothing emphasises so clearly what I have said. Having failed to see fishing up to the beaches because the United Kingdom took national measures on 1 January 1981, on which the hon. Gentleman said that he would back us, and having seen an agreement reached, the hon. Gentleman, whose earlier speech was based on looking back over his shoulder rather than forward as others, such as the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond), did, now chooses to look forward, but merely as a prophet of woe. It is no wonder that the fishing industry has no confidence in the Labour party.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg), with his great interest in these matters, and a number of other hon. Members stressed that, in addition to the CFP agreement, it is essential that the industry and the Government together do all that they can to improve the marketing of fish. Personally, I am convinced that there is scope for improvement, but, as my right hon. Friend said in opening, it must be in the context of marketing in the widest sense. It is a matter not simply of promotion, but of grading, policy, presentation, transport and distribution. I certainly give the undertaking, as my right hon. Friend has elsewhere, that whenever the Sea Fish Industry Authority, which is charged with this responsibility, puts forward its terms for a full marketing strategy, we are ready to work out with the authority how that strategy may best be put into effect and how it can be supported. Having achieved a common fisheries policy, I hope that the whole industry will pull together, as it has in the discussions, to update marketing and to make it effective in the interests of the industry and of the consumers of this country.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) raised the subject of research, which is not directly related to this matter but is nevertheless important. I agree with him on this. Unlike research in other industries, research in the fishing industry is not simply a matter of technological or scientific progress. Perhaps more than in any other industry, research in the fishing industry into the size, location and movement of stocks is essential for an effective management policy in relation to those stocks. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we understand that priority.
Recommendations have been made by the Rayner committee. Those matters are now under discussion. My right hon. Friend and I have had a meeting with the unions involved but we have not yet come to any conclusion. I assure the hon. Gentleman and the House that in reaching a conclusion we shall bear in mind the wider function of fisheries research compared with research in other areas.
The hon. Gentleman also raised the important issue of research vessels. That decision has been taken, apart from Rayner. It is true, simply for reasons of more effective research, that a vessel has been decommissioned. What the hon. Gentleman did not acknowledge is that we have decided to build a new vessel, which I hope will be more suitable for the task. Therefore, looking to the future, that again demonstrates our support for the industry.
We wish to see continuity of research. There is no point in doing otherwise. It is our intention to maintain that continuity of research with the resources available to us. It is our intention that the work should continue. If there were a gap, the work could continue in other ways by chartering, or whatever. It is not our intention that gaps should arise.
The right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland and the hon. Member for Durham argued that now that we have a common fisheries policy we should have more effective policies for the management and organisation of fisheries. The hon. Member for Durham said that we should approach this matter along the licensing road. That is one road down which we could go, but the support of the industry is not as wholehearted as the hon. Gentleman suggested. I have a number of doubts. Whatever tools we use for management—there is a series of different tools which could be used to manage our fisheries policy—I hope that there will be no difference between the two sides of the House that we should avail ourselves of the tools of management to ensure that we maximise our resources to the best possible effect.
It is essential to have a fisheries policy agreed with the other fishing nations in Europe before effective management measures can be introduced. The agreement is a prerequisite to the type of control and management that the hon. Gentleman and I seek. At the same time, I assure the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that we shall be consulting the industry about measures of management and restructuring. Obviously we shall be consulting the fishermen's organisations throughout the United Kingdom and taking account of the areas round our coast where there are special fisheries interests. We have to work it out together, but the ultimate responsibility must remain with the Government. We intend to consult in future as we have done in the past. I hope that the House generally will support that policy.
I should like to deal with one other general matter outside the agreement of 25 January, to which reference was made in particular by my hon. Friend the Member for Totnes (Mr. Mawby), although it was touched on by a number of other hon. Members. My hon. Friend referred to the Spanish vessels in the south-west which are known as the Spanish armada. My right hon. Friend has considered this matter carefully. As I have expressed at Question Time and on other occasions, we share the concern about the extent to which Spanish operators can evade, and have evaded, our national and Community arrangements to protect our fisheries. They take advantage of our liberal laws on registration. I freely admit that. For wider reasons, it is right that our laws are liberal, but they present a loophole which has been exploited and we wish to see that loophole closed. It is my right hon. Friend's intention to introduce a Bill as soon as possible that will do that. There have been complications in determining exactly how to frame the Bill, but we hope that the difficulties have now been resolved. The Opposition have said that, if we introduce a Bill, they will give us their support and allow it to pass through this place quickly. If that support is forthcoming, we shall proceed as soon as we can.
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. As soon as the Bill is fully prepared we shall wish to carry it through all its legislative stages as quickly as we can. I welcome the support that the hon. Gentleman has given. I am sure that other parties will give their support. I am sure also that the Bill will be welcomed by all those who represent constituencies in the south-west.
Will the right hon. Gentleman display the same urgency in dealing with the problem of the competing use of inshore waters and answer my question about the recommendation of his committee?
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington and others asked about structures. The total sum available to the Community over three years is £140 million. The sums available for decommissioning or scrapping total £18 million, while £66 million will be available for modernisation. The laying-up premium amounts to £25 million. The largest part of the budget will be devoted to the areas of the greatest interest to our fishing industry.
It is impossible to say what share we shall get of these sums. It will depend on the applications that come from the industry once the detailed implementing regulations have come forward from the Commission. We want to enter into discussions with the fishermen's organisations as soon as possible. We have had a number of informal consultations with representatives of the fishing industry since last summer, and we have agreed with the fishing organisations how we should operate the full implementing regulations when we have them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bridlington asked about the qualifying date for scrapping grant. No date has been fixed, but one of the key requirements of the qualification is that the vessel should have fished for 100 days in the year before it is decommissioned.
The hon. Members for Renfrewshire, West (Mr. Buchan) and Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) and others asked about the 22,000 tonnes of mackerel and 2,000 tonnes of cod for the Danes. There is concern that the Danes could, in some roundabout way, have access to western mackerel. That is not so. The Danes have specifically renounced all claims to any western mackerel. The declaration, which was made in the Council, states:
The Council notes that, in this context, Denmark renounces its claims regarding western mackerel.
That is clear and unequivocal. The 2,000 tonnes of cod will end after three years. Secondly, it is additional to the total allowable catch and was agreed with Norway. Therefore, it does not come into the total allowable catch calculations. Thirdly, it is not part of the main regulations.
The hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West mentioned the status of the quota proposals. It has been suggested that they have been based on article 43 of the treaty. It is true that that article allows for majority voting, at least in theory. Nevertheless, it is the view of the Council of Ministers that article 43 is subject to the Luxembourg compromise. That view has been explored several times. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Heffer) should follow what happens in Europe.
It has been implied that article 4(1) of the basic regulations might be put at risk and that it might give more continuity to these temporary arrangements than ought to be the case. Article 4(1) applies to the basic regulations, not to the points that I have made outside it. It has the opposite effect to what the hon.
Gentleman fears. Article 4(1) deals with staying power with regard to the percentage quotas that are vital to us. It is more of an insurance than the type of risk that he suggested.
My hon. Friends the Members for Haltemprice (Sir P. Wall) and North Fylde and the hon. Members for Kingston upon Hull, East (Mr. Prescott) and Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Johnson) asked about deep sea fishermen. They should benefit from one of the major factors in the structures package. We have recently recognised the importance of that sector. That applies especially to aid, but to fishery management such as the sectoral quota that has been given to the freezer fleet as well. It is worth examining the quotas in third country waters that we have agreed for the benefit of our fleet. The quota for cod in north Norway for 1983 that we agreed on 25 January is 8,030 tonnes. The 1981 catch—the last year for which we have full figures—was 5,156 tonnes. The quota for haddock in north Norway is 3,090 tonnes and the 1981 catch was 1,548 tonnes. I could give more examples.
The Opposition have accused the Government of not caring in the negotiations about the interests of the deep sea fishermen. The structural package, the help that we have given to the industry, the quotas in third country waters that we have negotiated—and the fact that those quotas are better than the recent record of the deep sea fishing industry's catches—show that we are giving them a proper deal.
Control and enforcement is crucial. Many hon. Members raised the subject, especially my hon. Friend the Member for Banff. We have never had proper control and enforcement before. In reply to my hon. Friend's point, I make it clear beyond peradventure that control and enforcement are in the hands of the coastal state. It is true that some of the national measures at the beginning of the year were in the hands and the responsibility of the flag state. That was because of the nature of the measures. However, now that we have full agreement, the situation reverts to what it was in the original control regulation that we agreed, and which is based on proposals that we put forward, that control should be in the hands of the coastal state, Therefore, we are responsible for the policing right up to the 200 mile or median line. We police the access areas and the north of Scotland box. We police all the conservation measures where there are no quotas, and a country fishes. We carry out the prosecutions when a country fishes or exhausts its quota, and that is notified. We have the power in our waters, which are the largest area in the Community, to enforce that. It is that enforcement power, together with the quotas, that gives us the real strength.
The intervention by the right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) was a disgrace to the House. The right hon. Gentleman made one of the most destructive speeches that I have ever heard, when there is a Community development programme of £20 million over five years.
I shall not give way. The right hon. Gentleman has had his turn.
The only positive element in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was when he tried to divide the Scottish Fishing Federation. That is a disgrace to the Scottish people and an insult to the intelligence and hard work of the office bearers in the organisation. When I listened to the right hon. Member for Barnsley (Mr. Mason) and the hon. Member for Renfrewshire, West, I thought that they were no more than paper tigers. They gave away the basis on which we would have been able to negotiate a better agreement, if they had wanted it.
I shall go back to The Hague agreement and the statement that was made by the right hon. Member for Plymouth, Devonport (Dr. Owen). My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, North (Mr. Fletcher) intervened and said:
Is the Minister aware that Irish Ministers achieved a better deal".
The right hon. Member for Devonport replied:
I am only too well aware of that."—[Official Report, 2 November 1976; Vol. 918, c. 1210.]
Therefore, then and at the renegotiation in Dublin in 1975, the Labour Government failed to negotiate a better agreement.
If Opposition Members really wanted a better agreement in the common fisheries policy, they should have tried to achieve it when the power was in their hands. They did not do so. They did not even try to do so. That is why, when we came to office, we were faced with quotas of 30 per cent., and the position in the EC was eight against one.
With regard to access, where there were historic rights in three-quarters of our coastline, we have either eliminated or reduced those rights. We have further areas of preference, not only in the north of Scotland box but, as my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East said, in the pout box and the mackerel box in the south-west We also have monitoring and control, as I said before.
Above all, we have gained on quotas. There is a better deal than anything to which the Labour party ever aspired. If one compares quotas in 1973–78 with the quotas that we have negotiated, and the record on the main species that are important to us, one sees that we caught 43 per cent. of North sea cod in 1973–78, but under this Government we caught our new quota of 47 per cent. We caught 34 per cent. of Irish sea cod. Our quota is 42·7 per cent. Western mackerel was 54·7 per cent., and we have negotiated 58·7 per cent. The industry wants stability and continuity in the amount of fish that it can catch. In this agreement, which has the industry's support, I believe that we have given the industry a base on which it can build for the future, and I know that it is right to do so.
|Division No. 53]||[10 pm|
|Allaun, Frank||Campbell-Savours, Dale|
|Atkinson, N.(H'gey,)||Clark, Dr David (S Shields)|
|Bennett, Andrew(St'kp't N)||Cocks, Rt Hon M. (B'stol S)|
|Booth, Rt Hon Albert||Concannon, Rt Hon J. D.|
|Boothroyd, Miss Betty||Cook, Robin F.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (Proven)||Cowans, Harry|
|Buchan, Norman||Crowther, Stan|
|Cryer, Bob||Marks, Kenneth|
|Cunliffe, Lawrence||Marshall, D(G'gow S'ton)|
|Davidson, Arthur||Marshall, Dr Edmund (Goole)|
|Davis, Terry (B'ham, Stechf'd)||Mason, Rt Hon Roy|
|Deakins, Eric||Maxton, John|
|Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)||Millan, Rt Hon Bruce|
|Dixon, Donald||Miller, Dr M. S. (E Kilbride)|
|Dormand, Jack||Morris, Rt Hon C. (O'shaw)|
|Eadie, Alex||Morris, Rt Hon J. (Aberavon)|
|Eastham, Ken||O'Neill, Martin|
|Edwards, R. (W'hampt'n S E)||Palmer, Arthur|
|Ellis, R. (NE D'bysh're)||Pavitt, Laurie|
|Evans, John (Newton)||Powell, Rt Hon J.E. (S Down)|
|Field, Frank||Powell, Raymond (Ogmore)|
|Garrett, W. E. (Wallsend)||Prescott, John|
|George, Bruce||Race, Reg|
|Golding, John||Robertson, George|
|Gourlay, Harry||Robinson, G. (Coventry NW)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Silkin, Rt Hon J. (Deptford)|
|Hamilton, W. W. (Ctral Fife)||Silverman, Julius|
|Hardy, Peter||Skinner, Dennis|
|Harrison, Rt Hon Walter||Snape, Peter|
|Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy||Soley, Clive|
|Haynes, Frank||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Stewart, Rt Hon D. (W Isles)|
|Hoyle, Douglas||Stoddart, David|
|Hughes, Mark (Durham)||Strang, Gavin|
|Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)||Thorne, Stan (Preston South)|
|Jay, Rt Hon Douglas||Tinn, James|
|John, Brynmor||Wainwright, E.(Dearne V)|
|Johnson, James (Hull West)||Welsh, Michael|
|Jones, Rt Hon Alec (Rh'dda)||Whitlock, William|
|Jones, Barry (East Flint)||Williams, Rt Hon A.(S'sea W)|
|Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald||Wilson, Gordon (Dundee E)|
|Lamond, James||Wilson, William (C'try SE)|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Woolmer, Kenneth|
|McDonald, Dr Oonagh||Tellers for the Ayes:|
|McGuire, Michael (Ince)||Mr. Ron Leighton and|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Mr. George Morton.|
|Aitken, Jonathan||Bulmer, Esmond|
|Alexander, Richard||Butcher, John|
|Ancram, Michael||Carlisle, John (Luton West)|
|Arnold, Tom||Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)|
|Aspinwall, Jack||Carlisle, Rt Hon M. (R'c'n)|
|Atkins, Rt Hon H.(S'thorne)||Cartwright, John|
|Baker, Nicholas (N Dorset)||Chalker, Mrs. Lynda|
|Beaumont-Dark, Anthony||Chapman, Sydney|
|Bendall, Vivian||Clark, Hon A. (Plym'th, S'n)|
|Benyon, W. (Buckingham)||Clegg, Sir Walter|
|Berry, Hon Anthony||Cockeram, Eric|
|Best, Keith||Cope, John|
|Bevan, David Gilroy||Corrie, John|
|Biffen, Rt Hon John||Cranborne, Viscount|
|Blackburn, John||Dorrell, Stephen|
|Boscawen, Hon Robert||Douglas-Hamilton, Lord J.|
|Bottomley, Peter (W'wich W)||Dover, Denshore|
|Boyson, Dr Rhodes||du Cann, Rt Hon Edward|
|Braine, Sir Bernard||Dunn, Robert (Dartford)|
|Bright, Graham||Durant, Tony|
|Brinton, Tim||Ellis, Tom (Wrexham)|
|Brooke, Hon Peter||Emery, Sir Peter|
|Brotherton, Michael||Fairgrieve, Sir Russell|
|Bruce-Gardyne, John||Faith, Mrs Sheila|
|Buchanan-Smith, Rt. Hon. A.||Fenner, Mrs Peggy|
|Forman, Nigel||Myles, David|
|Garel-Jones, Tristan||Neale, Gerrard|
|Goodhart, Sir Philip||Needham, Richard|
|Goodhew, Sir Victor||Neubert, Michael|
|Goodlad, Alastair||Normanton, Tom|
|Gow, Ian||Onslow, Cranley|
|Gray, Rt Hon Hamish||Osborn, John|
|Griffiths, Peter (Portsm'th N)||Page, John (Harrow, West)|
|Grist, Ian||Patten, Christopher (Bath)|
|Gummer, John Selwyn||Pattie, Geoffrey|
|Hampson, Dr Keith||Percival, Sir Ian|
|Hannam, John||Pollock, Alexander|
|Hawkins, Sir Paul||Renton, Tim|
|Hawksley, Warren||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Hayhoe, Barney||Rippon, Rt Hon Geoffrey|
|Heddle, John||Roberts, M. (Cardiff NW)|
|Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm)||Roper, John|
|Holland, Philip (Carlton)||Rossi, Hugh|
|Hordern, Peter||Rumbold, Mrs A. C. R.|
|Howe, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey||Sainsbury, Hon Timothy|
|Howell, Ralph (N Norfolk)||Shaw, Giles (Pudsey)|
|Hunt, David (Wirral)||Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')|
|Irvine, Rt Hon Bryant Godman||Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)|
|Jessel, Toby||Skeet, T. H. H.|
|Jopling, Rt Hon Michael||Speed, Keith|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Speller, Tony|
|Kellett-Bowman, Mrs Elaine||Spicer, Jim (West Dorset)|
|Knight, Mrs Jill||Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)|
|Lamont, Norman||Sproat, Iain|
|Lawson, Rt Hon Nigel||Stainton, Keith|
|Lee, John||Stanbrook, Ivor|
|Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)||Stevens, Martin|
|Loveridge, John||Stradling Thomas, J.|
|Luce, Richard||Tapsell, Peter|
|Lyell, Nicholas||Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs M.|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradf'd W)||Thomas, Rt Hon Peter|
|McCrindle, Robert||Thompson, Donald|
|Macfarlane, Neil||Townend, John (Bridlington)|
|MacGregor, John||van Straubenzee, Sir W.|
|McKay, Allen (Penistone)||Viggers, Peter|
|Maclennan, Robert||Waddington, David|
|Macmillan, Rt Hon M.||Wakeham, John|
|McNair-Wilson, M. (N'bury)||Walker, Rt Hon P.(W'cester)|
|McQuarrie, Albert||Walker-Smith, Rt Hon Sir D.|
|Major, John||Waller, Gary|
|Mather, Carol||Warren, Kenneth|
|Maude, Rt Hon Sir Angus||Watson, John|
|Mawby, Ray||Wells, Bowen|
|Mawhinney, Dr Brian||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Maxwell-Hyslop, Robin||Winterton, Nicholas|
|Mayhew, Patrick||Wolfson, Mark|
|Mellor, David||Young, Sir George (Acton)|
|Meyer, Sir Anthony||Younger, Rt Hon George|
|Miller, Hal (B'grove)|
|Mills, Iain (Meriden)||Tellers for the Noes:|
|Mills, Sir Peter (West Devon)||Mr. Ian Lang and|
|Moate, Roger||Mr. Archie Hamilton.|