There have been numerous press reports of the meeting, but will the Minister take this opportunity to clarify precisely what his position is on decommissioning? Does he think that the industry should make a contribution or that there should be total funding by the industry? If conservation measures are to be attached to the policy, what sort of measures should they be? I have asked a clear question and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will provide clarification.
My position is exactly what it was when I first stated it, and I shall continue to state it. The purpose of our policy must be the conservation of fish. Otherwise, there will be no fishing for the next generation of Scottish and English fishermen, or any other fishermen. I have said clearly that if conservation comes first, the decommissioning schemes so far proposed will not meet the conservation end. If we are to have any sort of decommissioning, it must be part and parcel of a package of measures that would conserve stocks. Such a package must be effective. Accordingly, I want the industry to propose measures that it believes it would be able to keep to and which it would be able to support. If such a series of measures came forward, it would have to have—I shall continue to use these words—a significant degree of support from the industry itself. I believe that to be necessary, and I want the industry to be involved in that way.
Does my right hon. Friend accept that the fishermen in my constituency are always in favour of genuine conservation measures, but they have expressed to me on many occasions their concern that he should protect the interests of all United Kingdom fishermen and not just a section of them?
My hon. Friend is right in saying that the interests of different sections of the fishing industry— different coasts of Scotland, different parts of England, and as between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—are not always the same and there are bound to be arguments between them. But the one issue that matters is that we conserve the stocks or there will be no British fishing industry. I am sad at those who try to garner votes today at the cost of fishermen's jobs tomorrow—that is the challenge I put to the Scottish National party.
Is the Minister saying that he is willing to implement a decommissioning scheme if conservation measures are agreed with the fishing industry, because that is a bit different from what he has been saying in previous debates in the House? On the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) about the EFTA discussions taking place on fishing grounds off Spitzbergen, will the Minister give us a date when those discussions will be finalised and will he confirm that the fishing industry will be consulted on what steps are being taken as part of those talks?
I certainly cannot give a date. The arguments are fast and furious and I am sure that the hon. Gentleman knows well that there is no division between us on our determination to maintain the basis of the common fisheries policy and not to have that destroyed as a by-product of the negotiations, and that is what we shall continue to do. I shall state my case once again. I have said quite clearly that I shall not consider a decommissioning proposal except if such a proposal is part of a package of effective additional schemes for conservation which comes from the industry. If such a proposal were made, I would not count out a decommissioning scheme so long as it had significant support from the industry.