We have pressed hard for an increase in the Channel cod total allowable catch for this year. The Commission's recent proposal, based on scientific advice, for a small increase from 23,900 tonnes to 24,600 tonnes has just been confirmed. We have also secured agreement that the Community's scientific and technical committee should carry out a further review of the total allowable catch.
I congratulate my hon. Friend and former colleague in the European Parliament on his new appointment. With regard to Channel cod, does my hon. Friend appreciate that although any increase in the quota is helpful, there is nevertheless deep disappointment among our fishermen that the increase is so small? Will he bring his skills and knowledge of Europe into play to continue the battle for a larger quota of Channel cod and has he any proposals for better management of the quota?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words and reminiscences. I appreciate that fishermen are bound to be disappointed. In response to my hon. Friend's question about the management of the quota, I am considering dividing the quota for Channel cod between vessels of more than 10 m in length and those below 10 m. That would apply immediately if I take that decision. I am also aware of the pressure to extend licensing to vessels below 10 m and I am actively considering—my hon. Friend will be aware of the significance of the adverts—whether to extend licensing from vessels of 10 m registered length to vessels of 10 m overall length, which would bring the most blatant of the so-called rule beaters under control, and I am treating a decision on those questions as a matter of urgency.
While the hon. Gentleman was discussing that yesterday, I was mugging up on fish. We are vigilant about the quality of the fish that is landed and we are determined to try to increase the cod quota so that British housewives can enjoy more cod and that all cod that is landed, either from British boats or from imports, should be subject to a levy which will help to promote that quite excellent fish.
May I add my congratulations to my hon. Friend on his promotion to his new position on the Government Front Bench. I am sure that he will do an extremely good job. My hon. Friend will realise that the theme that was jokingly introduced by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks) is quite serious. My hon. Friend and the Ministry are responsible for licensing procedures in respect of the Channel areas where sewage or sewage sludge is dumped. Will he keep a close eye on the situation and monitor what is happening as the Southern Fisheries Association is extremely concerned about the almost unbridled issuing of licences to the Southern water authority?
I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind words. I understand that the licensing process is carefully controlled, but I give my hon. Friend a clear guarantee that we shall reinforce the controls and I shall be particularly vigilant.