Orders of the Day — Sea Fish (Conservation) Bill

– in the House of Commons at 4:16 pm on 8th June 1992.

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Order for Second Reading read.

[Relevant documents: European Community Documents Nos. 10229/91, relating to the Common Fisheries Policy, 5088/92, relating to a quality policy for fishery products, 5210/92, relating to monitoring implementation of the Common Fisheries Policy, 5337/92, relating to discarding of fish in Community Fisheries and 5351/92 + ADD 1, relating to the common organisation of the market in fishery products.]

Photo of Miss Betty Boothroyd Miss Betty Boothroyd Speaker of the House of Commons

Before I call the Minister of State to move the Second Reading, I must inform the House that I have selected the amendment in the name of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond).

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon 4:47 pm, 8th June 1992

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

There are two big issues in fisheries policy. The first is the conservation of fish stocks; the second is the structure and capacity of the fleet. They are, of course, linked, but they are not interchangeable.

The need for conservation is addressed by technical measures such as mesh size, the kind of gear used and how it is rigged. However, technical conservation poses real problems of surveillance. There is cheating and far too much discarding. There is therefore a need to deal not just with the size of fish taken out of the seas, but to limit the number of fish removed. Quotas control only what is landed. The overwhelming need is to reduce total fish mortality. Hence the necessary complement of technical conservation is effort control. That is what the Bill is about.

The second problem is fleet structure. That problem is tackled by decommissioning and measures to tax the aggregation of capacity. It is also tackled by measures to permit more economic operation of the industry by introducing a greater element of market forces—notably by means of the trade in licences.

Underpinning both aspects of policy is the licensing of vessels. There is no point in curbing fishing activity by over-10 m boats if the under-10 m fleet can simply expand without real check. That is why, despite the heavy administrative and manpower costs involved, I have accepted the argument of the fishing organisations that licensing should extend to the entire fleet. That will give us a valuable new instrument of management, which is essential if we are to make effort control and decommissioning work for the benefit of the industry.

There is a parallel approach, which is tackling the effort and the capacity. That parallel approach is at the heart of the Government's policy. It translates into five related groups of actions. They depend both on Community and unilateral decision making, so it is entirely right that this debate should cover wider Community fishing policy as well as the specific and limited question concerned with the Second Reading.

Those five elements are decommissioning, improving the operation of market forces, the extension of licensing, technical conservation, and effort control. Many details, notably the details involved in decommissioning and in effort control, are subject to consultation. That consultation remains entirely valid, because all that the Bill does is to empower fisheries Ministers to attach a condition to a licence. The details of that are still subject to consultation, which is an extremely valuable exercise for fisheries departments. Indeed, I extended the period so that the organisations had time to call their members together to give a considered response.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

The Minister suggests that he is merely empowering, but it is a major power being put into the hands of the Executive. If the Bill is passed, what arrangements will be made to allow the House properly to consider any condition that the Minister would wish to attach to a licence before the conditions became current?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I will reflect on the hon. Gentleman's point. He will be aware that the conditions currently attached to licences, which are fixed from time to time, are not debated in the House. He will also be aware that 3,800 vessels will have licence conditions attached to them. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not wish to debate the fate of 3,800 vessels. However, he may remain confident that the consultation exercise with the industry is of great importance and is essential to the effective working of the measure.

Photo of Mr David Harris Mr David Harris , St Ives

Will my hon. Friend confirm that there will be no follow-up by way of detailed regulations—that he may use that power by imposing conditions on licences, but that it will not be like the normal procedures of the House whereby an enabling Bill is followed by detailed regulations to implement a power?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

The power that the Bill would confer would enable fisheries Ministers to attach further conditions to a licence. My hon. Friend will know from his experience in the fisheries sector and from his constituency interest that a licence already bears a significant weight of conditions to it. Indeed, that is one of the principal instruments of control. The European Community is looking to provide some overall framework on a Community level so that we can have more discipline relating to licences. My hon. Friend is correct in his surmise that that power would enable me to make conditions which would be issued to each vessel in the over-10 m fleet and would then condition the days at sea on which it operated.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I will give way, but the House wishes me to make progress.

Photo of John Taylor John Taylor , Strangford

On giving such powers to the Minister and how they will be implemented in practice, what role will the House have in approving new regulations? For example, with the limit on the days of fishing, at what stage will the House have a say if that limit is introduced?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

The right hon. Gentleman will be aware that, in the whole fisheries sector, limits are imposed by means of regulations which come from Brussels or from the House. The purpose of bringing the measure to the House is that, although one could look to Brussels to provide the power to make such an attachment, I would prefer to have the powers directly from the House so that Ministers may be responsible for the decisions that they take. That seems entirely reasonable.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

Will the Minister clarify what he means by licence conditions? He almost gave the impression—I assume that he did not mean to do so—that there would be different days-at-sea regulations or limits for each vessel. Presumably he was saying that they would apply to all vessels, not boat by boat.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I shall refer to the details in a while, but it is certainly not our intention to apply a flat rate condition which is identical for every boat. One of the reasons is that we may face the possibility of segmented multi-annual guidance programme targets from the European Community which would vary according to the type of fishery. We therefore have to maintain flexibility to be able to relate the days at sea in a subsequent phase to the actual fisheries in which we find ourselves involved.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I will give way once more on this point and then I must make progress. We have not yet discussed the details of effort control.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

I agree with the Minister on flexibility. Will he give an assurance that such flexibility will include taking account of the fact that Clyde fishermen already do not fish at the weekend and that conservation is therefore being practised by Clyde fishermen?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I should make it absolutely clear that our intention is to apply the possibilities with maximum flexibility. The 135-day limit already applies to about 450 boats, unless they have the gear option. We shall be looking to be more flexible in the way the limit is applied. I would not wish to take into account merely what the hon. Gentleman has said. Certain fishing communities— because of religious conviction, for example—refrain from fishing on certain occasions. I wish to be able to take that point into consideration by introducing maximum flexibility. I recognise the particular character of the fishing industry and it is not our intention to cut across it.

I shall now deal with the vessel decommissioning scheme because it is part of the twin policies and we should look at matters in the round. As the House will know, fisheries Ministers are prepared to make up to £25 million available for a cash-limited decommissioning scheme to help the industry to bring effort and capacity more into balance with fish stocks. The scheme will aim to target fishing effort, which is defined as days at sea in 1991 multiplied by vessel capacity units, to get the best value for public money. Only seaworthy vessels over 10 m holding valid fishing licences will be eligible to apply. The licences will be permanently extinguished before any grant is paid. Given the criticisms of decommissioning which have been levelled in the past, it is important to make it absolutely clear that when a boat is decommissioned that boat ceases to be part of the licensed fleet. There can be no equivocation about that. To stop idle vessels being reintroduced for the sake of decommissioning grant, we have suggested that only vessels which fished for 100 days in 1991 and in subsequent years should be eligible. The grant may not be paid on vessels which have changed ownership after 1 January 1992.

Community regulations currently require decommissioning grant at a standard rate per tonne. We are pressing the Commission to propose an amendment to the Council regulation which would give us more flexibility to get better value for money. Departments are also considering whether the rate of grant should be determined by tender. That would be one way of getting more value for money. No decommissioning money will be paid until effort control and reduction arrangements are in place. Subject to those arrangements, payments will run over two financial years: 1993–94 and 1994–95.

The second leg of the policy is to improve the operation of market forces. We are keen to allow the industry greater flexibility to manage quotas and to use market forces to rationalise its operations. For instance, we are aware of concern about restrictions placed on quota swaps by producer organisations and we propose to lift those restrictions. The greater flexibility should enable the industry to maximise quota uptake and make annual end of year reallocations of quotas unnecessary. As the House will know, towards the end of autumn every year fisheries departments usually redistribute unused quota between the producer organisations. A mechanism will be provided whereby the organisations can redistribute the quotas, so the market and not the Ministry will deal with the problem.

We also propose to introduce further flexibility by changing the method of calculating quota allocations to allow producer organisations to buy out the track records of member vessels. This will allow producer organisation members to benefit from the removal of old, inefficient vessels.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I will give way after the next two paragraphs.

The industry also needs to be able to transfer and aggregate licences. The existing rules already allow that, but they have introduced new penalties—20 per cent. for aggregation and transfers. We have consulted the industry and in the light of its comments we shall be prepared to make adjustments. 1 hope that the industry will fully exploit that liberalisation. The more we can get from liberalisation and decommissioning, the less dependent we shall be on effort control, so I hope that the industry will look to the market force element as well as to decommissioning to obtain the maximum from the policy. It obviously makes sense to do so.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Will the Minister explain why he made the decommissioning scheme—which has general support in the House although there is disappointment at the level of funding—contingent on acceptance of his pet project of transferable quotas, which is extremely controversial in the fishing industry? Why was not decommissioning of capacity allowed to stand in its own right?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

The proposal before the House is not for individual transferable quotas in the sense in which they operate in places such as Iceland and New Zealand. It is a limited introduction of transferability and market forces. It is not ITQs as they operate in some other fisheries. The hon. Gentleman should also bear in mind that producer organisations have said that they would like greater flexibility. I appreciate that it depends which producer organisation one consults. In Scotland the producer organisations play a particularly important role in the industry.

Transferable quotas are not my pet project. However, it is clear that market forces should play a greater role in the industry. My proposal is something which the industry has said that it wants in order to make the system more efficient.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

I wish to pursue this point. I find the Minister's terminology a little disturbing when he talks about old, clapped-out vessels. If the effect of market forces is essentially to close down a fishing industry in one community and allow the quota to disappear into one where fishing is more powerful and capital intensive, is that an acceptable price to pay?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

If I were introducing absolutely freely tradeable quotas so that, for instance, quotas from the north-east coast of Scotland could be bought by Humberside or vice versa, I might appreciate the hon. Gentleman's anxiety. But we are talking about trading within the producer organisations. No one will be obliged to sell. No one will compel people to sell. We are introducing what the producer organisations have asked for.

I will try to get through another chunk, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and move to the third leg of the policy, which is the extension of restrictive licensing to vessels under 10 metres. The whole House will welcome it because the fishing industry asked for it. I was initially reluctant because of some of the administrative and manpower effort that would be involved, but I was convinced that it was the right policy. Therefore, we intend to implement licensing of, in effect, the whole fleet.

The 10 m and under-10 m fleet has expanded. We have seen the development of so-called "rule beaters"—vessels constructed by the building yards within 1 mm of whatever set of rules happens to apply. It is important that the benefits of effort control and decommissioning are not undermined by further expansion in the sector. The extension of restrictive licensing will therefore apply to all vessels fishing for profit from 1 January 1993. That will be done by means of a statutory instrument which will of, course, be placed before the House.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

I apologise for interrupting my hon. Friend and thank him for his courtesy in giving way. His responses are most helpful in this type of debate. Will he make the position clear on the under-10 m vessels? Is he saying by implication that the days-at-sea regulations will apply to under-10 m vessels—the inshore fleet—or does the Bill provide that the regulations can so apply at some time in the future? His answer is important.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

My hon. Friend asked three questions and I shall be precise in my reply. The Bill gives me the power to extend days at sea to the under-10 m fleet, but I do not intend to do so unless it proves necessary because we must build up the information about the behaviour of the under-10 m fleet.

There are two reasons for licensing. The first is to put a ring fence round the industry. That will prevent the effort expanding and people bumping out of the over-10 m fleet into the under-10 m fleet. The second reason is to enable us to build up information. I make it clear that at present we do not intend to apply either decommissioning or effort control to the under-10 m fleet.

Photo of Mr Barry Field Mr Barry Field , Isle of Wight

Will my hon. Friend be kind enough to expand on that? Will licensing be extended to pot fishing for lobster and crab? As he knows, on occasions I have brought delegations of people worried about the amateur nature of such fishing and the unmarked buoys for pots around the south coast which lead to an enormous number of yachts getting ropes around their propellers as well as great antagonism among professional fishermen.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

The possibility of applying the rules to all vessels licensed within the fleet will exist, but it would be physically impossible, even if I wished to do so, to extend the provisions to a further 7,000 vessels in addition to the 3,800 vessels to which the rules will already apply. The smaller vessels can therefore rest certain that we have neither the means nor the inclination to extend the effort control provisions to vessels below 10 m. Virtually everyone demanded that we should extend licensing to create an effective licensing system which applied to the whole fleet. That part of the package has been widely welcomed.

I must also make it clear that the licence for vessels under 10 m will be a simple permit to fish. We do not intend that such licences will have the complexity of licences for the more powerful fishing vessels, which differentiate between stocks and so on. Of course, the licences will be subject to prohibition orders. We intend to monitor fishing activity data through a sampling regime and may introduce additional controls if they are justified.

To allow market forces to operate more effectively, the new licences will be tradeable between vessels but only within the under-10 m category. The aim is to include all genuine fishermen, but not to give potentially valuable licences to non-fishermen, so we shall ask for evidence of fishing for profit in 1991. We shall give careful consideration to difficult cases such as people who have entered into a financial commitment to buy a vessel—the so-called pipeline cases—or people with replacement vessels. Where there is an obvious wrinkle, we shall be flexible and sensible so as not to exclude people who find themselves in genuine difficulty.

The technical conservation measures, as the House will know, are rules on the type of gear that fishermen can use. They are essential especially to ensure that juvenile fish can escape capture and survive to maturity and reasonable, marketable size. I pay tribute to the pioneering work that the United Kingdom industry has done to popularise some technical conservation measures and, for example, its work on trialling, which has been an extremely useful collaboration. There is certainly a long way still to go on technical conservation. We have a significant agenda which we should like to see accepted at European level. We shall continue to work closely with the industry.

We have agreed significant new Community measures, which came into force on 1 June. They include an increase in the minimum mesh size in the North sea and west of Scotland to 100 mm, with the option to use a square mesh panel of 90 mm. That represents the first Community recognition of the importance of square mesh panels on a Community-wide basis. We have also increased the minimum mesh size to 80 mm in the Irish sea, as the industry wanted, and introduced a uniform mesh size of 40 mm for pelagic species.

The measures also include a restriction on the use of grading machines to reduce waste of fish by discarding and restrictions on the length of drift nets to 2.5 km in most cases for European Community vessels, wherever they fish, to prevent the development of practices which have done so much harm in the south Pacific and elsewhere.

For practical reasons, a decision was taken last month to defer bringing a few of the new rules into force until January 1993 so as to allow fishermen time to acquire new gear not immediately available on the market. Some United Kingdom fishermen will be helped by that sensible adjustment of the plans.

Photo of Mr George Foulkes Mr George Foulkes , Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley

The Minister has received representations from the Scottish Fishermen's Federation to delay the one-net rule until January next year. I understand that when members of the federation met officials they were told that there could not be a delay and they want to meet with the Minister and the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Has the Minister agreed to that meeting and what consideration is he giving to their representations?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I know that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State, who is sitting beside me, has met Scottish fishermen to discuss the issue and I know that he intends to cover the matter in his reply to the debate.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. To which hon. Gentleman is the Minister giving way? It is not clear.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

Perhaps I should give the other one a chance, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

Photo of Menzies Campbell Menzies Campbell Shadow Spokesperson (Defence), Shadow Spokesperson (Defence)

I am grateful for the Minister's felicitous reference to me as "the other one". The one-net rule is of particular significance in those ports which have concentrated on prawn fishing. In my constituency, fishermen are concerned that the one-net rule may have significant consequences for the future of the fishing industry in East Neuk in Fife. There is anxiety that the imposition of the one-net rule may drive those who concentrate on prawn fishing to seek white fish as an alternative, which appears to run contrary to the type of conservation measures to which the Minister has referred.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I know that the industry was anxious to have a one-net rule and we would like one to be more generalised throughout the European Community. The problem in Scotland is that the fishing industry was concerned about discards in the nephrops fisheries. I know that the industry has made representations to my hon. Friend and he has heard what they have had to say. The Community rule can be altered only by Community agreement, but my hon. Friend intends to deal with that subject when he winds up. I shall allow one more intervention; then I must get on.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

In fairness to fishing organisations, can the Minister confirm that support for the one-net rule has been contingent on by-catch changes to allow it to operate effectively? Given that it is being imposed as a unilateral measure, does he accept that there is nothing to stop the Government attempting to get an agreement to the by-catch changes throughout Europe before the one-net rule is imposed on 1 January next year?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

We have to be careful that the changes in the rules do not undermine the essential conservation purpose of the measure. In answer to the last three interventions, I said that the measure has been mentioned by Scottish fishermen to my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland He has been listening to what they have said and he will answer the hon. Gentleman's question when he concludes the debate.

I was about to tackle the unilateral measures. Following consultation with the industry, we introduced further national measures. They include restoring the minimum landing size for whiting to 27 cms because the Community had reduced it to 23 cms. I was delighted to be able to announce that the Irish Government had simultaneously introduced the 27 cm minimum landing size for whiting in their fishery. I had discussions with the Irish Minister on Friday about how we could co-operate further in the Irish sea, as it is a vunerable stretch of water and it would make a great deal of sense if we could introduce maximum co-operation in the way in which it is managed.

We have introduced a one-net rule for all licensed vessels. We also introduced compulsory square mesh panels in the Irish sea and south-west of Scotland, where the minimum mesh size is 80 mm. We imposed the square mesh panel on all United Kingdom nephrops fisheries and the package includes anti-ballooning provisions. We have also introduced a ban on twin and multi-rig trawls in all nephrops fisheries except the Fladen ground. There has been a significant advance in technical conservation measures, which form an essential piece of the panoply of fisheries measures.

We regard effort control as essential if we are to tackle the fundamental problem of fishing mortality. We need to take new direct measures to control and reduce fishing effort. That is the only part of the package which requires primary legislation. We have the power to do everything else, which is why other measures do not feature in the Bill. It is an essential part because there will be no decoupling between it and the decommissioning scheme.

We plan to freeze fishing effort for all vessels of more than 10 m at the 1991 level in 1993, with the option of reducing it in the years after that. The size of reduction will depend on the sort of multi-annual guidance programme targets and how they are defined in Brussels, on the final outcome of those negotiations and on the impact of other measures in the package. We believe that the only practical way to control fishing effort is to control the time that vessels spend at sea. The existing licensing provisions in the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967 already allow us to limit time spent fishing, but it is simply not possible to monitor how much fishing takes place during each trip. Clause 1(2) and 1(3) of the Bill will enable Ministers to restrict the time that licensed vessels spend at sea by imposing a new condition in sea fishing licences. It will also enable them to determine, by way of licence conditions, what time at sea will mean. Our intention is to restrict days at sea and the licence conditions will set down how they will be defined, notified and controlled.

The Bill also contains a number of other measures which will ensure that the new time-at-sea restrictions can be properly enforced and that the penalties for not observing licence limitations and conditions act as real deterrents to would-be offenders. It will give us broader powers to require information from fishermen by enabling us to require the provision of non-statistical information. For the first time, it enables us to say in what form we require the information and does the same in relation to trans-shipment licences. The provision will enable us to ensure that we have all the information necessary to enforce the new time-at-sea restrictions.

The Bill also allows Ministers to revoke or to suspend licences when licence limitations and conditions, including time-at-sea restrictions, are breached. Clause 2(3) does the same in relation to trans-shipment licences. The provision will for the first time enable Ministers to withdraw or suspend licences as a penalty. We shall no longer be dependent on long-drawn-out court proceedings and inadequate fines to stop or deter over-fishing. We shall be able to take action once a breach has taken place and consider revoking as well as suspending licences. We need severe penalties when fish conservation is at stake.

When I visit fishing communities I am frequently asked when I shall be able to impose some real penalties. Far too often, fishermen seem to get off extremely lightly when convicted of a fishing offence, and the fine is a fraction of the profit gained from the infringement.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I have one more clause to deal with and then I shall give way.

The Bill increases the maximum penalty on summary conviction for breach of a licence condition from £5,000 to £50,000. That will bring the maximum penalty for breaching a time-at-sea restriction into line with the maximum penalty for fishing without a licence or exceeding quota limits.

The Bill will come into force one month after Royal Assent. It applies in Northern Ireland and may be applied in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man by Order in Council.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I shall give way to those hon. Members who wish to intervene.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. It would help enormously if the Minister would say which hon. Gentleman he is giving way to because four seem to wish to intervene.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I intended to continue my generosity by giving way to all of them, but I will start with the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace).

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

I am grateful to the Minister. He is being generous and it is helpful to the debate if we may clarify matters. He said that the Bill will provide definitions as to what constitutes a day at sea. The Minister must be aware of the concern that vessels are counted as spending days at sea if they are returning to a home port having discharged their fish or travelling to a port for repairs. Is he minded to make special provision to cover those situations? The proposed restrictions have given rise to much ill feeling in the industry.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

We have to accommodate a whole series of conditions. We must decide how to deal with the case that the hon. Gentleman mentioned. That is one purpose of the consultation. We must deal also with vessels which have already been affected by a tie-up in 1991, or which have taken the gear option. How are we to accommodate those circumstances in the days-at-sea rule? We must take into account also vessels which opt to tie up at an overseas port, because under Community rules we cannot oblige them to tie up in a British port. We must establish a track record for vessels in certain classes which are fishing for non-TAC stocks. It is not part of my purpose to gloss over the difficulties of the exercise, but we have consulted and we are collecting information to work out the most sensible way of overcoming some of the difficulties that we shall encounter.

I repeat that it is not our purpose to apply the rules unreasonably, or in a way that is more restrictive than necessary. It is not our purpose either to deprive fishermen of legitimate days at sea, but to establish a genuine track record when they are involved in fishing. We will go to great lengths to get that right.

Photo of Mr Keith Mans Mr Keith Mans , Wyre

My hon. Friend indicated the need for effort control in this country. Can he say why our Community partners do not feel that the same need exists in their countries?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

It is by no means clear that our Community partners will not feel that way. We all face multi-annual guidance programme targets, and we do not yet know what they will be. We have not received any official notification of the latest proposed targets. The Dutch operate effort controls covering virtually the whole of their fleet. That measure was recommended by the Advisory Committee for Fisheries Management of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. If TACs and quotas do not work, there must be some limitation on effort.

The body which governs New England fisheries is also examining the possibility of introducing effort control. On Friday, I was speaking to my French opposite number, who said that if France is confronted by a MAGP target of a certain size it will have to consider effort control. We are introducing it because we believe that it will provide us with the flexibility to apply targets that are best suited to British fisheries. It is certainly possible that other Community members will want to go down the same route. The Dutch have already led the way in respect of virtually the whole of their fishery.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Has the Minister's attention been drawn to the hostility of fishermen in the north of England, particularly in relation to the days-at-sea provision? They say that if a proper decommissioning scheme had been introduced and adequately funded, the new provisions would not be necessary. The fishermen argue, "Why should a farmer have set-aside money for setting aside his land when a fisherman is not given set-aside money for decommissioning his boat?" What is the reason for the Government's inconsistency?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

There is a great difference between the two. A farmer who is told to set aside land—the Community now has what is in practice a compulsory set-aside scheme— is being told that he may not use the land that is his own asset to produce that which we know he could have produced had he used that land. The fisherman is not being told that he may not catch his quota: the purpose of the measure is not to prevent him doing so out of a common resource. That is the difference between the two.

How many hundreds of millions of pounds would the hon. Gentleman have us spend on a decommissioning scheme? The French Government have just spent £15 million—somewhat less than we plan to spend on a decommissioning scheme. They say that there is no possibility of yet another decommissioning scheme, and that other methods would have to be used. Decommissioning is a necessary element in the programme, but it will not by itself deliver.

Photo of Mr Robert Hicks Mr Robert Hicks , South East Cornwall

I want to press my hon. Friend on the important question of the equivalent action which may or may not be taken by our Community partners. I represent a constituency in the south-west which is vulnerable to the fishing activities of certain of our Community partners. We are worried that Britain could be taking what could prove, in certain circumstances, very restrictive action, but that no comparable action will be taken by our partners. What tangible evidence can I offer my fishermen in Looe or Polperro that we are not alone in taking action to introduce a package of conservation measures throughout the Community?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

My hon. Friend can tell them two things. He can say that we are doing this because the United Kingdom has the biggest investment of all the Community fishing countries in the health of the stock, and to protect the futures of British fishermen catching British stocks. We have 89 per cent. of the haddock, and 46 per cent. of the cod. It is our stocks that are at risk, so it is essential that we preserve them.

My hon. Friend can tell his fishermen also that other countries will have to decide how to meet their MAGP targets. We want ours defined in terms of fishing effort because we think that that will give us greater flexibility. I believe that other countries will find themselves moving in the same direction. A number of Ministers told me that decommissioning can only go some of the way. If the Community's proposed targets are eventually agreed, I can think of no country that could meet them by decommissioning alone. I am sure that that will be understood by our fishermen.

Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady , South Down

The Minister indicated that the Bill applies to Northern Ireland. Has he entered into full and proper consultation with fish producers in Northern Ireland? If so, how did they react? They are totally opposed to the broad concept of the Bill.

Every time the Minister is pressed to answer a question, he does so with a latitude that is not contained in the Bill. We must deal with the legislation that is before us. For example, 1991 will serve as the base year for the days-at-sea rule. Will the Minister clearly indicate what latitude he will give in variations from the norm in respect of any particular vessel? I understood the Minister to say that the rule will be applied on a vessel-to-vessel basis. Will he give a firm undertaking that variations from the 1991 norm will be taken into account?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

Let me reassure the hon. Gentleman. We chose 1991 as the base because that is the year for the next phase of the MAGP targets. However, I made it clear that if, for example, a fisherman was affected by circumstances beyond his control in 1991—such as breakdowns—we would take them into consideration. It is not our intention that 1991 should be treated in every single respect with absolute biblical certainty in respect of days at sea. Where a case is shown for flexibility, we will allow it.

Perhaps I should make it clear that it is our intention to establish an appeals procedure so that fishermen can explain the reasons for an unusually low track record in 1991, where this was due to circumstances beyond their control. The appeals tribunal will be independent of MAFF officials and will be able to advise Ministers that they should make an adjustment to the recommended days at sea.

Photo of Mr Michael Brown Mr Michael Brown , Brigg and Cleethorpes

I pick up the points made by my hon. Friends the Members for Wyre (Mr. Mans) and for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks) in contrasting the situation in this country with that in the rest of the Community. The Minister's contention is that other countries—he quoted France—will have to consider effort control along those lines. He said that in France, for example, only a £15 million decommissioning scheme had been proposed. I wonder whether my hon. Friend is being entirely fair. Several other countries in the European Community are relying much more heavily on decommissioning schemes than either France or ourselves.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

Let me be clear. I thought that the House was anxious to pursue the principles of subsidiarity, by which I mean that we should be able to implement, by methods that are most appropriate to our conditions, general rules laid down by Brussels. Therefore, it is perfectly sensible that we should apply measures that are most appropriate to our fisheries and conserve our stocks for our fishermen. It is our stocks and our industry which are at risk, and the essential purpose is to conserve them.

Everyone will receive a MAGP target and nobody will be able to escape it. They will all have to meet it. Some countries have already had a decommissioning scheme. The French scheme has finished—it took about 75,000 kilowatts out of the French fleet, and that is reckoned to be equivalent to about 7.5 per cent. We aim that our decommissioning scheme will take upwards of 5 per cent. out of our fleet, depending on whether we can apply it with the type of flexibility that we want.

It will be for other member states to decide how they meet the target. We have decided that the best interests of conservation are served by meeting the target through a mixture of decommissioning, technical conservation and this Bill.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I shall give way just one more time because I am in danger of beating the record of giving way in the course of a debate. I am not sure whether that is good or bad, but I have tried to be generous.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby

The Minister should go for the record. I wish to follow up the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) about compensation. My hon. Friend referred to decommissioning, but why will there be no compensation if, in future, the number of days at sea is limited as a result of Government policy? If farmland is set aside, the farmer receives compensation. If the time during which a fisherman can go to sea, and therefore the time during which he is able to produce is limited, why should he not receive compensation in the same way? The crew is paid on a share-fishing basis, so they need the revenue. The whole economics of a fisherman's enterprise are affected by such a limitation, but the Minister says that the intention is to reduce his catches because that time limitation is a conservation measure.

Why is the fisherman not compensated in the same way as the farmer? I do not see any provision for that in the Bill, although there is a provision to allocate £4 million to administer the scheme, which is only half the £8 million that the Government will contribute to the decommissioning scheme. The administration is fairly expensive, but there is no provision for compensation to fishermen.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

First, let me correct the hon. Gentleman's second point. It is one of the great canards that the Government will contribute only 8 million to the scheme. Let me make it absolutely clear. Because of the way in which the Fontainebleau mechanism works, at least £20 million of British taxpayers' money will go to the £25 million scheme. The French scheme received £3 million of French taxpayers' money. Our scheme will be bigger and better than that operated in France because we shall allocate £20 million to it. I wish to put that on the record because it is frequently said that that is not the case. I can supply the hon. Gentleman with all the algebra to prove that that is so.

On compensation, it is not our intention that a fisherman should fall short of his legitimate quota because of the restrictions. We want to stop the discard and to control fish mortality. If it came to the point where it appeared that the quota could not be fulfilled, we would obviously wish to discuss with Brussels the possibility of relaxing the quota to enable it to be fulfilled. Tackling the problem of fish mortality is at the heart of the Bill.

I have been on my feet for a long time, so I should press on and cover the elements of the Bill which deal with scrutiny and the mid-term review. We operate within the framework of Community legislation, so I shall consider the main issues covered by that.

The Community is currently in the process of the mid-term review of the common agricultural policy. A copy of the Commission report forming the basis for the review is before the House. Subject to the European Court of Justice confirming the view of its Advocate General, we expect relative stability, which guarantees our fishermen a fixed share of fishing opportunities, to be maintained. We also expect the restrictions on access in the 0 to 12-mile zones and in the Shetland box, which are specifically subject to review, to be confirmed for the next 10 years. It seems likely, therefore, that no major changes of principle or to the framwork of the CFP will be made.

We are working for improvements in its implementation. Effort controls, such as we are introducing in the United Kingdom and which I have described earlier, will be an important element. We expect to see better enforcement and I have discussed enforcement with my French and Irish colleagues. It will be a theme of our presidency to try to ensure that we have better and more uniform enforcement, and further conservation measures will be introduced to reduce discards. Later this year, the Commission will, we expect, make proposals for specific new legislation on this and other topics. Those proposals will be subject to scrutiny by the House in the usual way.

The measures are designed to preserve stocks for British fishermen. They are designed to recognise the importance of fisheries in the United Kingdom for national needs. We shall have to meet our targets—as other countries will have to meet theirs—and we want to have policies in place to meet to them in a way that best guarantees the future of our fishing communities and the jobs which depend upon them.

Fishing is not an industry that one should condemn to long-term decline. We are committed to taking those necessarily tough decisions which will give it a secure base for reconstruction and modernisation. However, it all begins with conservation. No fish equals no future. Without the natural resource, there is nothing—but with a properly managed resource there is a future that is as individualistic and challenging as that of any trade in the world. It is our duty and intention to safeguard that future. The Bill is part of that endeavour and I commend it to the House.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe 5:36 pm, 8th June 1992

There is no doubt that everyone in the House accepts the need for sensible and effective conservation measures to deal with the problems that our fisheries have faced for some years. The tragedy of the Bill is that it does not cover adequately the problem of conservation: in fact, it should be entitled the sea fish crisis management Bill. That is the Government's approach to a problem that is largely of their own making.

I find it incredible that the Minister talks of a market approach when he refers to a policy that will dictate the number of days that an individual fisherman can spend at sea. It is just like telling a large supermarket that it can open on two days a week only as part of a management policy. The Bill approaches the problem of overcapacity in our fleet not from the point of view of the market, but from a bureaucratic and strict management viewpoint.

The Bill fails to deal with overcapacity. The real problem with our fishing fleet is that there are too many boats chasing too few fish. We have discussed that for many years and hon. Members from both sides have recognised that problem and consistently argued for a sensible decommissioning scheme as the basis for dealing with it. After many years of debate, the Government have finally introduced a decommissioning scheme. What a scheme it is. It is a minnow, a real tiddler of a scheme when compared with the size of the problem. Only £25 million will be provided, and on the figures that I have seen, the capacity of the fleet will be reduced not by 5 per cent.£not a great amount itself—but by about 3 per cent. With such a small amount being provided, the sums available to individual fishermen may be so small that the scheme will have a low take-up and it will fail to attract those people who need reasonable compensation for them to leave the industry. In many cases, they were encouraged to invest in that industry by enlarging their vessels or building new vessels. They now find that they are being restricted in terms of the number of days fishing needed to be viable.

The Bill imposes tie-up conditions on our fleet, while fishermen in other member states, which have used proper decommissioning schemes, will be free to fish when our fishermen are discriminated against. That is neither fair nor reasonable. Although I have listened carefully to the Minister, the fact remains that many other member states have reached their targets through other methods, which means that they do not have to suffer the restrictions to be imposed on our fishing fleets.

The Bill threatens the financial viability of some of our most energetic and efficient fleets and contains no choices. Under decommissioning schemes, people can choose whether to opt in or opt out. This measure will apply to every fisherman, whether he wants to put in a great deal of time or invest large sums in his boats.

There is no guarantee that the Bill is a genuine conservation measure. It may restrict fishermen to remaining in port at certain times of the year, but they might put even more effort into fishing on the days when they can fish, for example, by increasing their crews on those days.

The Bill also has safety implications. We have debated in the past the problem of fishermen being held up in port because of engine breakdowns through no fault of their own. They may run out of days allocated for fishing and may therefore be tempted to go to sea in unsuitable weather to keep up their track records. Those issues must be considered carefully.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

May I make it clear to the hon. Gentleman, first, that we shall apply the measure flexibly. In the event of bad weather or similar circumstances, as with the eight-day tie-up and the 135-day tie-up, we shall not penalise fishermen. Secondly, I assure the hon. Gentleman that in the event of extraordinarily bad weather over a sustained period so that a fisherman cannot fish during his full allocation of days at sea, that amount will not be deducted from his following year's allocation.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

I am grateful for that categorical assurance, which will be well received by those concerned.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam , Redcar

Does my hon. Friend share my doubts about the Minister's commitment? For example, the two 10-m boats at Redcar have to push off from the beach because we have no harbour pier. Is the Minister really saying that, in the event of bad weather at Redcar, he will give my two fishermen that assurance? Will the Department be that flexible?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

That assurance has been given and is now on the official record. My hon. Friend the Member for Redcar (Ms. Mowlam) is a doughty fighter for her fishing constituents—[Interruption.] Two are as important as any other number. She will ensure that that point is brought to their attention, and I am sure that other hon. Members from fishing ports will take note of the Minister's assurance.

The administration of the scheme is incredibly bureaucratic and its implementation will involve much extra expenditure. The Bill entails an extra expenditure of £4.4 million. I presume that that is for extra staffing, inspectors and administration. I wonder whether that sum could be better used by adding it to the 30 per cent. contribution that the Government must make to find a meaningful decommissioning scheme.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Will the hon. Gentleman kindly press the Minister about how localised a storm must be? It seems that there will be total chaos.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

For those who fish for a living, long periods of bad weather mean that they cannot get out to sea to pursue their legitimate activity. For them, the matter is fairly straightforward. We are aware of the problems that can be caused by bad weather, which is experienced by all fishermen from time to time. But there can be prolonged periods of bad weather. I am glad that the Minister has recognised that there can be such exceptionally bad circumstances and that he has assured us that fishermen will not be penalised because of them.

My hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) spoke about financial assistance. When we debate the fishing industry and the agricultural sector, it is always the agricultural sector that receives financial support. The answer to over-capacity within the common agricultural policy is set-aside and support payments for farmers. The solution for over-capacity in the fishing industry is compulsory tie-up with no compensation whatever, but only restrictions on fishermen's rights to work. The Secretary of State returned from Brussels with an agreement on the CAP, which he hailed as a great success and which has involved much extra taxpayers' money. If the Minister considers it a great success to negotiate extra contributions from taxpayers for agricultural support, why cannot we have a similar success for the fishing industry? It would not involve an excessive amount of taxpayers' money but would ensure a stable and sustainable fishing industry.

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West

Does my hon. Friend agree that the difference is that the set-aside system helps farmers and leaves them in a viable position, but the Government's proposals will make many fishing fleets financially non-viable and knock them out of business altogether?

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

Yes, I agree. If one wants to be totally ruthless in dealing with over-capacity, one way is to make those concerned bankrupt. That solution is not being applied to farmers through support payments—I do not argue that it should be—but it is certainly being applied to fishermen as a form of control.

The Bill leaves many technical questions unanswered. In all fairness, the Minister conceded that some difficulties needed to be looked at. I understand that the number of days at sea are based on 1991 levels. But what about those vessels that are currently less than 17 m and have a non-pressure stock licence and no record of the number of days that they have spent at sea? How will the number of days at sea be allocated to them?

The Minister mentioned flagships. There has been a large increase in the number of flagships operating from foreign ports, particularly Dutch beamers, and we all know of the Spanish problem. How can flagships that operate from foreign ports be affected? How can the regulations be enforced when those flagships have a fishing licence, in the same way as boats from Grimsby, Maryport or Tynemouth, while operating from Spain or France? Will the Minister have an inspector in every European port to ensure that they comply with the regulations? How will the rules be applied in those circumstances?

Compulsory tie-up in ports is a desperate solution to a desperate problem. It is an indictment of the Government that, after so many years, they have reached a stage where their only answer to the problem is compulsory tie-up. Their policy is also a form of back-door decommissioning, allied with tradeable days at sea. It risks concentrating the amount of effort in the hands of a few companies. Moreover, further foreign fleets may operate under the British flag and buy up entitlement of days at sea. Those issues need to be considered carefully before we consider the Bill.

The Government cannot bring a Bill before the House in this way and expect our support. As part of the package we want a properly financed and effective decommissioning scheme for a permanent solution, not one with controls on a year-to-year basis. We want boats to be exported properly out of the EC zone. It depresses me that one of the solutions is seen as the scrapping of fishing boats because there is scope for exporting boats released from the fleet through decommissioning as part of an aid programme to developing countries. Not only would that permanently remove those boats from the European fleet, but it could become part of a meaningful and constructive aid package.

A proper package of conservation measures is needed, and we have supported some of the Minister's proposals—indeed, we have argued for them for a long time. We believe that there should be full consultation with the fishermen's organisations, so that we obtain their support, understanding and backing. We have long argued for an end to industrial fishing. The position is now so critical that our fishermen are being forced to tie up their boats in port compulsorily, and there is no longer a role for industrial fishing.

We must reinforce the concept of relative stability, particularly during the mid-term review of the common fisheries policy, and I welcome the Minister's comments on that. We must ensure that the preferential access to the 12-mile zone continues. I welcome the Minister's comments on that.

We must recognise the regional needs of fisheries around the coast. It is about time that we had a comprehensive coastal zone policy to meet the needs of our commercial fisheries when faced with competition and other coastal developments.

There must be proper enforcement procedures and we must ensure that other member states meet our standards. The Minister mentioned other countries. There are other, more constructive ways of reducing effort than making boats tie up in port. Has the Minister considered arguing in the European Community for fishermen who use large mesh to receive a special payment? That would reduce the catch of those fishermen, who would then receive compensation. In turn, that would result in larger fish being caught and there would be no discards. Fish stocks would slowly recover while the policy was implemented. The scheme would be costly, but if we can direct millions and millions of pounds towards the agricultural sector for agricultural restructuring, why cannot we afford modest payments for our fishing fleets around the coasts to ensure sustainable fisheries for the communities who rely on them? I have not heard the Minister advance that argument.

There is an argument for opposing the Bill outright, rather than amending it or pussyfooting around. In its present form, the Bill is unacceptable. Its proposals do not go far enough to deal with the fishing industry's problems. As the Minister rightly said, the fishing industry has been consulted on a series of measures and changes, some of which need careful consideration. The proposals include tradeability in terms of the days-at-sea limitations and producer organisations. However, the deadline for consultation is not until 12 June, so the industry is still in a consultation period. But we are being asked, on 8 June, to pass a Bill that will give the Minister—no matter what he says—an open cheque to impose conditions on the fishing industry before the end of the consultation period. That is absolutely incredible—there should be more consideration of fishermen's views.

Ultimately, difficult and unpopular decisions about conservation may have to be made. The Minister acknowledged that fishermen have put forward proposals for a series of effective conservation measures, including square mesh, one-net rules, variations on by-catch, shellfish licensing and bans on twin and triple-rig prawn trawls. They deserve recognition for their proposals and should be given a guarantee that there will be full consultation until the deadline. We should not rush through the Bill before consultation is complete.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

That is the most bogus of all the hon. Gentleman's remarks. The Bill is an enabling Bill to confer the relevant powers. I should have thought that the House would be pleased that the Government attach such a high priority to fisheries that they have brought forward this measure as one of the first of the new Session. It does not cut across the details of implementation. We have made it absolutely clear that the link between decommissioning, effort control and all the other measures is not negotiatable. We have made it equally clear that the details of how we apply that policy are open to the fullest discussion, which remains our position.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

I cannot accept that argument. The Bill gives the Minister enormous powers of intervention. While we may agree with some aspects of the Bill, such as increased fines for fishermen who break the regulations, if, as the Minister said, there are to be links between decommissioning and effort control, it is all the more reason to have meaningful discussions with the fishermen about how to apply the policy. There is no excuse for presenting a Bill with such powers before the completion of the consultation period. 1 have drawn to the Minister's attention the fact that the Bill contains major problems which have yet to be resolved. Time should have been spent resolving those problems before the Bill was brought to the House.

The Bill is not part of a proper, rational or effective conservation scheme, but a panic measure. It is an insult to the industry and the House. It is essential for the Government to withdraw the Bill and to bring forward a measure containing the elements of which we have spoken to ensure a stable, sustainable industry in a form that will command all-party support. The Bill fails to do that. It is ill-thought-out and draconian, and the industry has not been given time to respond. Fishermen have not been properly consulted to ensure that the measure is effective, and works well for the good of the industry.

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Before I call other hon. Members, I advise the House that, although Madam Speaker did not impose a 10-minute limit on speeches, I hope that hon. Members will show a degree of self discipline so that as many speakers as possible may be called.

Photo of Mr David Harris Mr David Harris , St Ives 5:57 pm, 8th June 1992

No one in the House has greater admiration for my hon. Friend the Minister of State than 1 have. I served with him in the European Parliament and believe that he is a good fisheries Minister and a good friend of the fishing industry. My view is backed by the actions that he has taken in the interests of fishermen, not just in my constituency, but throughout the country. However, 1 have the greatest reservations about the Bill and cannot support it in the Lobby tonight. There are many reasons for that, some of which have been rehearsed by the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley). The Bill's defects have also been highlighted in the barrage of interventions to which my hon. Friend the Minister was subjected during his speech.

The measure will result in an administrative nightmare. I cannot see how, even with an increase of 60 man years, such a system can be enforced and policed around the coasts. There is no chance of implementing this measure in respect of the wretched boats that are on our register but are Spanish or Dutch-controlled, or flag-of-convenience vessels of other countries. There is no way in which they will be subjected to a days-at-sea limitation. For that reason alone, I believe that there is ground for not supporting the Bill.

It goes further than that, however. My hon. Friend the Minister made a point of saying that the Bill was merely an enabling measure. I was glad when the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) pounced on him; if he had not done so, 1 would have. Under cross-examination, my hon. Friend admitted that he, or his successors—he, of course, is a reasonable man, but his successors may be less reasonable—could impose any restriction that he or they pleased on days at sea without the matter returning to the House. I cannot agree with such a proposal: it is wrong and unrealistic. Moreover, action is to be taken unilaterally. Our fishermen will be subject to restrictions, whereas fishermen in most European countries probably will not.

It is not good enough for my hon. Friend the Minister to say, as he did earlier, that the aim is to protect our own interests and our own fish stocks. It is true that, in some areas and some species, we have the overwhelming bulk of the quotas, but I am told that, in area 7—the south-west of England—our quotas amount to just 10 per cent. of total allowable catches. I believe that fishermen from other countries will continue to fish while our boats are tied up, and politically that is not on: there will be uproar among our fishermen if it happens. I would not mind so much if this were a European measure, imposed in uniform terms and enforced across the Community. I do not believe, however, that it is right to impose such a measure when other fishermen are not subject to the same restrictions.

I was pleased to hear my hon. Friend's assurance that he would implement the measure flexibly, taking account of all the difficulties encountered by fishermen; but, with respect, I do not feel that he is in a position to give such a pledge. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) pointed out, bad weather can be very localised. For example, there is a world of difference between the weather on the north coast of Cornwall and the weather on the south coast. I do not believe that it is beyond the wit of my hon. Friend, and his administrators in the Ministry, to take account of such factors in implementing the restrictions.

Many hon. Members will remember the difficulties that we all encountered when milk quotas were introduced—particularly my hon. Friend the Member for Cornwall, South-East (Mr. Hicks). Those quotas were fixed according to a baseline. Farmer after farmer came to tell us, "That baseline caused me particular disadvantage, because of such-and-such a set of circumstances." If we fix the 1991 baseline in this enabling legislation and the measures that flow from it, exactly the same will happen: fisherman after fisherman will come to us and say, "During 1991 my boat had to be laid up, and I could not go to sea for such-and-such a reason."

I was reassured to learn that an appeal system would be introduced, but I fear that that will add enormously to the administrative difficulties. I wonder whether my hon. Friend has considered what he is embarking on.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Is it not an extraordinary move to establish an appeal system that has no statutory basis? No such system is included in the Bill.

Photo of Mr David Harris Mr David Harris , St Ives

That may be true, but I have great respect for my hon. Friend, and I am sure that he will set up such a system; indeed, he has given the House a pledge to that effect. I am merely saying that I expect the hearing and handling of such appeals to present enormous difficulties. After all, there will be a good many of them.

We all realise that conservation measures must be painful. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend in that regard, and I do not entirely accept the view of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations—from which we have all received representations—that the legislation will sound the death knell of our fishing fleet. I do believe, however, that it will cause difficulties for many fishermen—certain types of fisherman. We should also remember that some of the fishermen on whom my hon. Friend intends to impose restrictions—I am not quite sure how, but they may be imposed on a geographical basis and involve a large number of boats—will probably not be fishing against quota in respect of some species. I wonder about the logic of that.

What really frightened me, however, was my hon. Friend's statement that the powers in the Bill would enable him—or, rather, his successors; he said that he would not use them—to extend the restrictions to all types of fishing boat, however small. Is that really sensible? Is it defensible? Is my hon. Friend really saying that small boats operating from coves such as Penberth, in my constituency, should be affected? The sea is practically flat there, and any little swell means that the fishermen cannot put to sea. Are they to face even the possibility of restrictions when they have to pick their fishing days with such care? It simply is not on. I beg my hon. Friend to reconsider.

I accept that measures must be introduced and that, if they are to work, they must be painful. I also believe, however, especially in the present climate of distrust and difficulty among our fishermen, that such measures must be seen to be as fair as possible. There must be equity between different types of fisherman, and, especially, between our fishermen and those of other countries.

I do not believe that the industry will wear this, and I think that it is right not to wear it. The Bill is already anathema to our fishermen, and—as I said earlier—it will not receive my support.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North 6:07 pm, 8th June 1992

I believe that all of us, except hon. Members who are new to debates such as this, are experiencing a sense of déjà vu. Here we are again, trying to marry conservation issues with stability in the fishing industry. I have sad news for new Members: in 12 months' time, we shall be back again, examining the whole package and trying to find out where we are. Yet all of us want stability.

New Members will note another recurring theme. The processing side of the industry will constantly say that its needs are never considered. I appreciate that view; all too often in our debates, the really important people neglected turn out to be the consumers—and the consumers can secure a decent deal for a wholesome and healthy food only if there are fish to be caught. It is a circular argument.

I make no apology for saying that we can never solve the problems, however we view them, unless we can bring about stability on the catching side. That is the side on which I wish to concentrate. On 2 June, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland—the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro)—sent me a letter which was probably sent to every Scottish Member. The letter was intended to be helpful; it set out the various aspects of Government policy, and the various other issues pertaining to the industry allied to the Bill. I am sorry to have to say to the Minister that the last two sentences of the letter show breathtaking complacency. He said: These measures will give the United Kingdom the most comprehensive fisheries conservation and management policy in the European Community. They are based on the central recognition that conservation, capacity and effort controls have to he dealt with as complementary measures. No one would quarrel with the last sentence but, as is so often the case, alas, the rhetoric does not match up to the reality of the proposals.

The Government resisted, week in and week out in the House during the last Parliament, calls for a decent decommissioning scheme. Finally, in the pre-election scramble for votes the Government decided that they had better do something, so they brought forward proposals for discussion.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the letter is that included among those who in the past had called for an adequately-funded decommissioning scheme was the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro).

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I do not cast that in the Minister's face. Any Back Bencher who has become a Minister must have said something in the past which is then thrown in his face. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) should not therefore be too hard on the Minister. Nevertheless, it is a good debating point, just like the Minister's final defence of acting unilaterally by invoking the well-liked principle of subsidiarity when it came to the European Commission.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

Will the hon. Gentleman allow me to intervene?

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I am anxious not to give way too much, bearing in mind the strictures of the Chair about taking too long, since there is no 10-minute rule. This will be the last intervention that I shall allow.

Photo of Alan Beith Alan Beith Shadow Spokesperson (Treasury)

The hon. Gentleman ought to recognise that what the Minister was saying about subsidiarity was that we reserve the right to punish ourselves when nobody else is punishing themselves.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

I had better not be tempted to discuss self-flagellation, otherwise we shall all be confused.

We all agree that the industry's problems have got to be solved on a comprehensive basis, but—and it is a very big "but"—the trouble is that each constituent part of the package has to be viable and effective in its own right. It is a very old story: that the strength of the chain depends upon the strength of its weakest link. If all the links do not carry the same strength, the chain falls apart.

The Government's decommissioning proposals are inadequate in two respects. By almost common agreement the decommissioning scheme is insufficient in its scope and does not seriously address the reduction in fishing effort. The Government's scheme still fails totally to take any account of the fishermen whose jobs will disappear as a result of the decommissioning of fishing vessels. It is obvious—I do not know why we have to keep on driving the point home—that if a vessel can no longer fish the crew can no longer go to sea. They no longer have a vocation and they no longer have a livelihood. It remains essential, therefore, in my view, that compensation, either directly from the Government or through the European social fund—it makes no difference where the money comes from—should be made available to the fishermen. We shall continue to press that point upon Ministers for as long as it takes.

If we look just at the Government's proposals without regard to other matters, the decommissioning scheme will not work. The Government concede implicitly that the scheme will not work by itself. Therefore, they have brought into play another part of the package, which is that the fish producer organisations should be provided with the power to buy up the fishing track records of those who wish to leave the industry. That sounds all right, but it is clear that vessel owners will have to choose either to decommission their vessels under the decommissioning scheme or to sell their track record. They cannot do both. The trouble is that selling the track records does not bring about a reduction in fishing effort. It certainly brings about a reduction in the number of boats, but that is not the same thing. The bought-in capacity would be reallocated again—presumably sold—to the vessels that want to continue to fish.

What effect would that have on the skippers and crews that want to continue to fish? Would it lead to increased financial pressures on skippers, especially since the Bill is intended to reduce the number of days during which vessels can go to sea? How would that be determined? In my naivety—I apologise for not having understood previous briefings—I had understood that this would be applied sector by sector. It never occurred to me for one moment that fishing effort at sea would be determined boat by boat.

When I had to stand at the Dispatch Box I had a recurrent nightmare of trying to make some sense of the milk quota scheme. I said at that time that if a Labour Government had introduced the kind of bureaucratic nonsense to which the milk quota scheme led, Conservative Members would have been baying for the blood of Labour Ministers. I suspect that if positions had been reversed and the Labour party had been in government and had introduced this Bill, the Conservatives would have roared their heads off about creeping socialism and bureaucratic red tape and would have said how impossible it was to introduce such a scheme boat by boat. It just cannot be done.

The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) referred to the bad weather that can be encountered in north and south Cornwall. I have no doubt that the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) will say that fishermen will argue, "The weather may be uniformly bad between the ports of Macduff, Banff, Portsoy, Whitehills and Buckie, but the harbours are different and it's safer to sail from one port in the same weather or to come back to that port in the same weather than to do so at the port next door." How is anyone going to monitor the scheme boat by boat? That is utter nonsense. The Minister will have to think this out clearly. I suspect that what lies behind all this is that the Government have always believed in decommissioning and in the reduction of fishing effort by bankruptcy.

As for the purchase of track records by the fish producer organisations, can the Minister tell us whether there will be any guidelines on the criteria for purchase? The Minister said that there would be no question of, for example, Humberside buying up Scottish quotas, or vice versa, and that it would be a mistake to think that that will happen. However, the Minister said that track records would be brought within the FPOs. That does not resolve the central problem that concerns fishermen—that wealthy sectors of the industry would be able to buy out the poorer sectors where fishing is part of real community life. Unless we are careful, the rich sectors will buy out the poor ones and communities will be destroyed.

The package is full of imponderables. I was grateful to the Minister for giving way so often during his speech until I realised what might have been his intention. Perhaps I am ascribing too Machiavellian an approach to him, but he may have thought that if he gave way often enough we should all be so confused that we would go away not having understood the Bill and other measures and given him an easy time, whereas in fact he is getting a fairly rough ride. The industry is obviously unhappy. The Minister will say that it always has been and that it always will find fault. That is true. The industry will always find something wrong with whatever is offered, but careful consideration shows that, more often than not, it has been right, and that must be taken into account.

The Scottish Fishermen's Federation met today, I understand, to try to arrive at a cohesive and consensual response. It is unhappy about the one-net rule. The rule's advantage is that it avoids cheating, but a blanket approach can have deleterious effects. The Minister knows only too well of the prawn fleet's legitimate concerns.

Whatever the final basket of measures proposed, the Government will find that it will work only if it has the co-operation and assent of the industry. Ministers have frequently said, and they said so today, how much they value consultation with the industry. Why, therefore, are they introducing the Bill when the consultation process has not been completed?

I was surprised that the Minister did not have a ready answer to that. The ready answer that he could have offered is that this is a Second Reading and that in Committee there will be plenty of time to amend the Bill in the light of recommendations. The fact that he did not use that argument suggests that his mind is made up, that the consultation process is not worth the paper that it is written on and that by taking these enabling powers—this blank cheque—the House will be cut out of consultation. I do not object to the Minister consulting the industry, but he must also consult hon. Members and the people who represent fishermen.

I want to ask two questions that have not been asked thus far. First, what is happening about the extraordinary case that occurred in Stornoway in the past couple of weeks? It appears that if a foreign vessel comes in United Kingdom waters with the intention of fishing it is not breaching the law. That is curious. I am sure that the Minister will answer that point when replying to the debate.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

I should like to clear that up now. The hon. Member, who is experienced in fishing matters, will remember the Sea Fish (Conservation) Act 1967. The procurator fiscal charged a boat for particular reasons. We are not appealing against the decision on that charge. We feel that other aspects of the Act can cover anything that is likely to happen again, and if foreign boats enter British waters we shall deal with them.

Photo of Mr Robert Hughes Mr Robert Hughes , Aberdeen North

That point will have to be considered in Committee, and I hope that we shall be able to table an amendment to probe it. The Minister cannot rest on what he appears to be saying—that the procurator fiscal brought the wrong charge. We need a firmer basis of law than that.

Secondly, what about fisheries protection? We hear a marvellous story in the press—I do not always believe what I read in the press—that MAFF will privatise its fishery protection service, which I believe it purchased from the Navy. What is meant by that, and will the Minister assure us that the protection of Scottish fisheries will not be privatised? It seems crazy to spoil the ship for a hap'orth of tar by privatising the industry when a Government-sponsored fishery protection fleet already exists.

I hope that I will not have to make a final plea again, but I fear that I will have to do so: may we, for goodness sake, achieve a system that provides stability so that the industry can plan and so that processors can have an adequate supply? Above all, unless we deal with this properly a wholesome healthy food will disappear from the housewife's budget. If that happens, we can forget about conservation because no one will buy fish and there will be no point in fishermen going to sea.

Photo of Jacqui Lait Jacqui Lait , Hastings and Rye 6:24 pm, 8th June 1992

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to make my first speech in the House. It gives me particular pleasure that you are in the Chair. I should like to record the number of my constituents who have said, "It is wonderful to see our Janet in the Chair."

It is a nice convention of the House that I pay tribute to my predecessor, Ken Warren. Hon. Members who spent time with him on the Select Committee on Trade and Industry were never bored. Those who were kind enough or lucky enough to benefit from his many years as the hon. Member for Hastings, and latterly for Hastings and Rye, will be aware of his tremendous record in serving his constituents and how much they respected and admired him for it.

I should like to take this opportunity briefly to mention Ken Warren's predecessor in Rye‑it was only after the boundary changes that he became the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye—Sir Bryant Godman Irvine, who recently died. It was with great sadness that I learned that news, but it was of great pleasure that he offered to help me in the election campaign.

Hastings and Rye is an historic constituency. My job was once done by six Members of Parliament, because at one time Rye, Winchelsea and Hastings had two Members of Parliament each. I am sure that they did not receive the amount of post that I receive every morning.

The Cinque Ports Confederation was set up because of our direct link with the fishing industry; Hastings, Winchelsea and Rye were members from an early age. My constituency is littered with remnants of defence mechanisms against hordes from across the water. Camber castle was set up by Henry VIII to repel the French. The Royal Military canal and the Martello towers were built to repel the French and pill boxes were built to repel the Germans. I hope that we shall never have to build such defences again.

However, because of those defences we have a marvellous tourist industry. It is ironic that the battle of Hastings is known throughout the world. The landing took place at Pevensey and the battle took place at Battle, not at Hastings. People come to see our Norman castle and all the other associated facets.

We therefore have a thriving industry of language schools, and I am glad to say that about 25 per cent. of our tourists come to language schools. It is nice to think that we are contributing to exporting the English language not only to west Europeans but to an increasing number of east Europeans, who recognise the need for fluent English.

My constituency is not only a tourist constituency. On Friday, I had the delightful opportunity of visiting one of the few hand-made brick factories in the country. It introduced me to the smile on the face of the hand-made brick. It produces bricks for the National Trust and makes the mathematical tile. For hon. Members who are not architects, the mathematical tile is used in building in Rye and Lewes.

At the other end of the industrial spectrum, we have a company called Computing Devices. In the Gulf war, its reconnaissance system was used on the Tornado aircraft and it is arguable that the war would not have proceeded as it did if it had not been for the company. However, that company is adjusting to other problems and it is ironic that one of its biggest contracts is for the European fighter aircraft. It is also chasing a contract for the Jubilee line, so the computing industry is living dangerously.

Although the constituency is successful, it suffers from poverty. We have a very high level of unemployment and our average pay is not only less than the national average wage but less than the south-east wage. We also have the problems associated with that—high levels of single-parent families, of homelessness and drug abuse. It may seem strange to say that many of those problems could be solved if the Government were to invest in the A21 and the A259. In his maiden speech about 20 years ago, my predecessor made the same point. I hope that it will not be another 20 years before I can stop talking about the A21 and the A259, but I promise to bore the House as long as necessary.

One of the constituency's significant industries is the fishing industry. As I said, the Cinque Ports Confederation came about because of the industry, and that has not changed. It was interesting that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said that, in a year's time, new hon. Members would be suffering from déjà vu. When my godmother, the redoubtable Hon. Pat Hornsby-Smith, introduced me to the Chamber for the first time, I witnessed a debate on the then White Fish Authority, so I am already suffering from déjà vu.

Unlike some hon. Members, I shall support the Bill, although the two fishing fleets in Hastings and Rye have significant worries. They are inshore fishing fleets, and the Hastings fleet consists entirely of boats of less than 10 m. It welcomes the extension of the licence, but, like every other fishing fleet, it is worried about the potential extension of the licence to cover days at sea. I am grateful to the Minister for saying that there will be flexibility in how days at sea are recorded and, as the fleet of under-10 m boats have no days logged, it will know from now on how closely it must log its days at sea to get the best possible deal should there ever be an extension to under-10 m boats.

Another worry is decommissioning which, under the present system, does not apply to the fleet, but should it ever do so it may face the difficulty of reducing its size. The fleet says that if its size is reduced too often, it will have to put to sea in coracles, which is not what any of us would wish. Rye has a 1O-to-17-m fishing fleet, which is specially caught by the days-at-sea extension. It is keen to ensure that we cover the issue of flexibility—and I agree with every point made about weather and conditions in 1991—but, as I understand it, the fleet does not have to log its catch if it has not caught precious stocks. Therefore, there will be an automatic under-logging of its days at sea, and I should be grateful for an assurance that that will be taken into account.

It is interesting that Rye Harbour is the only harbour owned by the National Rivers Authority. The NRA is trying to move our historic fishing fleet from one part of the harbour to another which is, of course, causing the fishermen enormous problems. I hope that the fact that the NRA owns one harbour may change very soon so that it is no longer involved in a business in which it should not have been involved in the first place.

Finally, may I mention the problem of a boat-builder in my constituency who was caught when the first decommissioning system was introduced and he had two 30-m boats on his stocks. He had orders for four 10-m boats, all of which have been cancelled. The bank has withdrawn financing and that withdrawal has not only made it impossible for him to carry on boat-building but has made it exceedingly difficult for him to get financing for any other business. Therefore, he was caught, to use an election phrase, in a double whammy.

It would be nice to have an assurance from the Minister that that case will be considered seriously so that the boat-builder involved can continue in business as, historically, the fishing fleet, the fishermen and everyone involved in the industry in Hastings and Rye have been entrepreneurial and self-sufficient. I should hate to think of that tradition coming to an end.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland 6:35 pm, 8th June 1992

May I be the first to congratulate the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) on her eloquent maiden speech. She paid tribute to her predecessor who was Chairman of the Select Committee on Trade and Industry, and it was recognised by hon. Members of all parties that neither he nor his Committee shirked tackling controversial issues. The House owes him a great debt for the way in which he dealt with issues such as the Iraqi super-gun and, from a Scottish perspective, the future of the steel industry in Scotland.

The hon. Lady gave us an insight into the issues with which she has to grapple in her constituency. As fisheries spokesman for my party, I went to Hastings about 15 months ago and met representatives of the industry there. I know that she will be very well briefed on fishing issues as the industry there is well able to articulate its case, and I look forward to hearing contributions from the hon. Lady in future fishing debates and, indeed, in other debates.

The Bill is short but, nevertheless, important for the industry. I think that it is common ground among hon. Members that conservation is acknowledged to be of supreme importance if the industry is to have a future. The Minister rightly acknowledges that many of the organisations that represent the fishing industry have in recent years acted constructively by suggesting specific measures and, above all, by arguing for a decommissioning scheme which at long last, in the immediate run-up to an election, the Government were prepared to allow but only—as I shall show later—in a very limited way.

We believe that the amount of money put on the table for decommissioning is insufficient and the fact that it has strings attached—as the Bill shows—is unsatisfactory. The Minister took the opportunity to claim that, far from there being only £7.5 million put into decommissioning from United Kingdom resources, the figure was nearer £20 million because of the Fontainebleau agreement. Although it has been raised on many occasions when decommissioning has been debated, one question has never been answered: how much will the Inland Revenue receive from fishermen who opt for decommissioning? We need that information if we are to make a proper analysis of how much it will cost the Government.

Even allowing for the Minister's qualification, there is a perception in the industry that the measure is far too small to have a worthwhile effect on reducing the capacity of the fleet to bring it more into line with the fishing opportunities. The fact that there is a need for the Bill to enable the Government to take powers to restrict days at sea is an admission that what they are doing in decommissioning is insufficient to meet the multi-annual guidance programme targets, which is why they are having to link decommissioning to the restriction of days at sea.

An important point which has already been mentioned and which is also covered in the reasoned amendment to be moved in due course by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond), if he catches your eye, Madam Deputy Speaker, is that there has been inadequate consultation on the Bill and the measures announced by the Government on 27 February. As the hon. Member for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley) said, the responses to the consultation period are due in on 13 June and here we are debating the Second Reading on 8 June.

The Minister sought to give an answer similar to that given by the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, in a letter on 2 June to Scottish Members, which has already been referred to by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes). He says in the letter: The industry is being consulted on the detailed application of these policies. The Fisheries Bill is an enabling measure which would give Ministers powers to restrict the number of days fishermen may spend at sea.

Not only the Opposition but Conservative Members, as the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) acknowledged, should be concerned about giving Ministers enabling powers. It is not a light matter. One of our functions as parliamentarians, whether on fisheries matters or on any other subject, is continually to hold the Executive to account. That means being very careful before we, as the House of Commons, give them powers that they can then operate in a way for which, as the Minister suggested, they will not have to answer to the House. The Minister will not have to answer to the House before he makes detailed conditions attaching to any licence about days at sea.

When the Minister said that there were more than 3,400 individual licences, I had the impression that we were talking about the potential for different conditions to attach to each licence as opposed to there being conditions that would attach to certain classes or to certain areas. That opens up the prospect of an appalling bureaucratic and administrative nightmare. It is estimated in the Bill that an additional £4.4 million will be spent on enforcement. I do not believe that that is the end of it because the Bill does not refer to the appeals mechanism which the Minister announced. I am not sure whether an appeals mechanism requires statute; we may be able to probe that matter in Committee.

The hon. Member for St. Ives pointed out that, when milk quotas were introduced, almost everyone had individual circumstances which made them different. I am sure that the question will also arise with fishermen. Some hon. Members have mentioned the weather and there will no doubt be fishermen somewhere who had to tie up for three or four extra days in 1991 because they had to return to port to attend a funeral or for some other reason.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Indeed; the compulsory tie-up is another reason.

All hon. Members who have constituencies involving the fishing industry must have discovered that it is already almost a nightmare for anyone to work out exactly what the various conditions are. They depend on what percentage catches fishermen had in 1990 if they come into certain categories. There have been certain derogations according to gear options. The conditions differ according to species.

When the milk quota regulations were introduced, I recall saying to my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith) that our late hon. Friend, David Penhaligon, said that a farmer probably needed a Queen's counsel before he went out to milk the cows. I suspect that fishermen will be in dire need of having in-house or on—board legal advice before they put to sea. We are creating a bureaucratic nightmare in the Bill which could be avoided if the Government were prepared to grasp the nettle and to put adequate resources into a decommissioning scheme.

The Minister said that the Government would consult and that those consultations would be taken into account in the detail. One assumes that the Bill will go into Committee next Tuesday. Perhaps the Minister will inform the House later if the Government have any other thoughts. Next Tuesday is not long after this Friday, and there will not be much time to give proper consideration to any detailed submissions.

Even though the Government, with good intent, have said that they are prepared to consult, there is a problem. An illustration of this is the implementation of the one-net rule, which has especially been mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell). The one-net rule has been mentioned in many of the industry's submissions on conservation measures, and there will always be many important qualifications attached to it.

The qualifications relate especially to the by-catch arrangements which go with the use of a 70 mm net for the nephrops fisheries. The industry has said that there must be changes in the by-catch arrangements before the one-net rule is acceptable. Instead of that, the Government have gone ahead unilaterally and have introduced the one-net rule. They have not taken sufficient account of the qualifications that the industry always said should go along with the one-net rule. I know that the reason given is that the United Kingdom Government cannot change the by-catch rules on their own and that such a change requires Community endorsement.

I hope that the Minister will state clearly that the Government intend to press for such changes in the European forum, not least when they have the opportunity to do so during Britain's presidency in the next six months. To hear that the Government intend to press for such changes would be of considerable benefit and reassurance to the industry, especially to fishermen who would be caught by the one-net rule. They hope that the Government will postpone to 1 January 1993 the introduction of the measure.

I turn now to the issue of days at sea. I have already said that we believe that it is wrong that the issue should be the strings attached to the decommissioning proposal. Hon. Members have also asked whether the European Community will accept such a measure as a means of fulfilling MAGP targets. Have the Government any assurance on that? The hon. Member for St. Ives has made the point strongly that our industry will take it badly if it is subject to increasing tie-ups while industries from other Community countries are free to fish in the same waters without such restrictions.

The point has also been raised about whether any other industry could be expected to accept the sterilisation of its assets without adequte compensation. Contrasts have been made with the position in agriculture, where those who have now been effectively compelled to set aside land have been compensated for doing so. That is a question of surplus capacity in land; here we have a question of surplus catching capacity.

The Minister gave an interesting answer. He sought to make a distinction by saying that there is a quota in the fishing industry and that the fisherman would catch his quota anyway. That raises even more fundamental questions about why we are to have tie-up days at all if the quotas will be caught anyway. We need a proper explanation of what the Minister meant because there seems to be a denial of economic efficiency. It appears that the Government are adopting the easy option when it would be worth while to try other measures, such as an adequate decommissioning scheme.

Various reasons have been given to explain why the days-at-sea restrictions are not wholly satisfactory. Safety considerations have been aired in a number of debates. I pointed out to the Minister, when he was so willing to take interventions, that proper consideration should be given to a boat that had to steam back to its home port or put into port for repairs.

I take the point made by the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North that hon. Members may say things when they are on the Back Benches and then have them cast up when they become Ministers. The hon. Member for Dumfries is now able to do something about the matter. 1 am not trying to catch him out; I hope that he will now use his good offices. I remind him of what he said on 5 March 1991—

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

It was very good stuff.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace , Orkney and Shetland

Indeed, it was very good stuff and I am sure that the Minister will enjoy my repeating it. He said: We all know that we cannot amend the instrument; we can only reject or accept it. However, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will consider the interpretation of the regulations and be flexible. My hon. Friend the Minister should consider the sea time between the port where the fish have been landed and the journey to the home port. A vessel may land fish in Peterhead while its home port may be Lossiemouth or Burghead. The journey back to home port is a dead sea time during which no fishing takes place, but that time must count towards the eight days."—[Official Report, 5 March 1991; Vol. 187, c. 241.] The Minister was spot on. I remember the speech well, and I am sure that, now that he is in a position to encourage such flexibility, we can rely on him to do so.

I think that it is widely accepted that vessels of less than 10 m in length should now come within the licensing regime, although, again, we must remember that we enter dangerous ground if we give the Government open-ended powers. The Minister said that he did not at present intend to extend the days-at-sea restrictions to vessels of less than 10 m in length. The trouble is that a much more unreasonable Minister may follow in the hon. Gentleman's shoes, in which case that assurance would be worthless. That is why it is important that we should be careful about granting Ministers such open-ended powers.

On the question of quota trading, it has been clear that the idea of individual tradeable quotas is something about which many hon. Members have great reservations because of the possibility of their being concentrated in relatively few hands. The Minister sought to reassure us, but we should like to know more about what he has in mind with regard to producer organisations taking in track record. Does he envisage the producer organisations holding on to their share and distributing it annually among their members? Will the share be held within a community for future generations of fishermen? If the idea is to try to maintain fishing activity within a particular community, do the Government have any idea of the way forward for communities such as those in Orkney, in my constituency, where there is no particular producer organisation linked to the community and where vessels belong to a variety of producer organisations?

With regard to the mid-term review, there is widespread agreement on the need for relative stability. Will the Under-Secretary amplify the statement that the Minister made in his opening remarks that provisions regarding the Shetland box would be confirmed? Did he mean that they would be confirmed as they are at present? What is the Government's response to the suggestion, which I support, that the box should be geographically extended and that there should be greater restrictions on the number of vessels that may enter and operate in it than has been the case for the past 10 years?

Finally, may I propose that a suitable and pragmatic way forward would be to refer the Bill to a Special Standing Committee? That would allow the industry and others to make representations and give evidence, which members of the Committee could then consider. Given the sweeping powers available to Ministers under the Bill and the lack of time for adequate consultation, it would be a sign of good will and good faith on the part of the Government—a sign that they mean what they say about taking into account the detailed representations of the industry—if they accepted that suggestion. The Bill would be well suited to the Special Standing Committee procedure, and I hope that, in the spirit of co-operation and of consultation, in the true meaning of the word, that course will commend itself to the Government.

Photo of Mr Neville Trotter Mr Neville Trotter , Tynemouth 6:52 pm, 8th June 1992

It is a particular pleasure to be the first Conservative Member to speak following the maiden speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait). She and I have met before and I have no doubt that she will bring to our deliberations the same wit, good humour and ability that Ken Warren always displayed. It is a particular pleasure to see hers among old and familiar faces here today.

It is less of a pleasure to take part in a debate with the Bill as its subject. My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) made a powerful speech outlining the concerns that are widely felt about the measure before us. We must, of course, be serious about the need for conservation. Anyone with any sense and with any knowledge of the industry accepts that, but there must be proper management, and I welcome the fact that the Government have produced a package.

I also welcome the fact that we are at last to have a decommissioning scheme. My own view was that such a scheme was inevitable and that it was simply a question of how soon it came into being. There remains the question of its adequacy or otherwise. I had intended to ask the Under-Secretary of State the extent to which he saw that decommissioning scheme leading to a reduction in capacity. In answer to earlier cross-questioning, he gave a figure of only 5 per cent. That seems to me to be a very small reduction, given the figures that are bandied around in connection with the possible extent of overcapacity in the industry. The figures that I have seen range from 12 per cent. through 20 and 30 per cent. to 40 per cent. I should have thought that 40 per cent. was on the high side, but 5 per cent.—if that is, indeed, the reduction that will result from decommissioning—seems very modest, and seems to leave far too much overcapacity to be dealt with by other technical measures.

One of the sad facts about today's debate is that the Bill is regarded as having been introduced with improper haste. I realise that it is an enabling Bill and that it has the whole of its parliamentary proceedings ahead of it. In my view, however, it would have been much more sensible to wait until the consultation period ended on 12 June. There will, of course, be time for views to be taken into account during the Bill's later stages, but in view of the difficulties facing the industry it was perhaps insensitive to introduce the Bill at this point.

I remain uncertain as to the effects that the Bill will have. On the one hand, we hear that it will put a large number of fishermen out of business; on the other, we are told that there will be more intensive effort and therefore no reduction in the total catch. I am therefore somewhat confused about the likely outcome. The Minister said that if the Bill resulted in too intensive an effort he might have to go back to Brussels. I could not quite understand how Brussels entered into the consideration of the Bill. As I understand it, it is a national move not reflected elsewhere in the Community. That point has been strongly made by Members on both sides of the House. It is essential that there should be fair competition between our industry and others in Europe.

That brings me to the question of enforcement and the future of the Royal Navy fishery protection squadron. I understand that in Scotland the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries operates some vessels of its own, proving that it is possible for civilian vessels to fulfil the role. We are all aware that the squadron is held in extremely high regard by the industry and we would certainly not want the standard of enforcement to fall. We need to ensure that those from abroad who compete against our industry do so in accordance with the rules. I hope that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary will refer in his winding-up speech to the suggestion that there is to be a phasing out of the Royal Navy's excellent capability and tell us a little more about the Government's proposals.

I think that the word "draconian" was correctly used to describe the powers which can be taken under the Bill. I do not believe that they will be used in a draconian way, but there is a danger that they could. I seek an assurance that such powers would never be used without a debate in the House, on each occasion on which their exercise is sought. That is a perfectly reasonable request and I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will respond to it positively.

This is a Bill of great significance for the industry, which is facing a difficult time, as it has throughout my time in the House. We now have the mid-term review hanging over us, and that is probably the most important issue facing the industry. I believe that the powers under the Bill will be sensibly and fairly applied by the Ministers now responsible, but there is a danger that at some future stage they may not be. We need to know a great deal more about the details of the Government's view of the implementation of the powers that they propose to take.

I am concerned that fishermen will have to give 12 hours notice if they wish to register themselves as being in port. That will mean that they cannot take advantage of the weather in choosing the days on which their vessels will be laid up. I am sure that all of us will want to ensure that there is no compulsion to go to sea in dangerous conditions simply to comply with what is regarded as a negative rule.

I welcome the proposal on decommissioning. All those active in the industry and I have been campaigning for that for a very long time, but we should spare a thought for the crews of the vessels concerned. The owners will obtain compensation, but what about the crews? Those crews might need retraining. To make a local point, we have an excellent training school in North Shields which is not replicated over a great distance north and south. Places like the North Shields training school should be encouraged to expand their traditional training of fishermen to retraining those who may give up their time at sea as a result of the introduction of the decommissioning scheme.

The Bill is necessary as part of an overall package. However, I share the doubts expressed so admirably by my hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives about the extent, in theory, of the power being taken in the Bill. I hope that during the passage of the Bill there will be assurances which will enable it to be seen as positive rather than negative as is feared by the industry at present.

7 pm

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I beg to move, to leave out from "That" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: this House declines to give a Second Reading to a Bill which, whilst acknowledging the need for conservation measures, fails to make provision for any compensation for effort limitation in terms of the days at sea restrictions; deeply regrets that the Government have chosen, unnecessarily, to make sea days limitation a prerequisite for a full decommissioning scheme for the fishing fleet; expresses concern that the Government is proceeding with this legislation during a consultation period; and calls on the Government to postpone the legislation until such time as it has been able to take stock of any contributions made to the consultation process.

I noted with some interest the slightly different attitude displayed by the Minister of State when he opened today's debate. He is normally noted for some degree of truculence. I found his contribution today to be positively mild in comparison. I can conclude only that he was almost begging for support, given the weakness of the Bill.

I welcome three things, the first of which is the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait). She said that she would have to do the work of six Members of Parliament in her constituency. If she represents the fishing industry diligently, that ratio will certainly continue with regard to her work in Parliament. More seriously, she referred to low pay in her constituency. That reference was refreshing and welcome because low pay has not always been the highest priority of Conservative Members. If the hon. Lady continues to represent the low paid in her constituency, and particularly the low-paid workers in the fish processing sector, she will make some welcome contributions to our debates on the fishing industry.

Secondly, I welcome the fact that as a by-product of the Bill we are having a full day's debate on the fishing industry. The debate will be well supported. However, it is a source of some regret that the usual channels managed to synchronise this debate with a meeting of the Scottish Grand Committee, which has put so many Scottish Members with constituency fishing interests—such as my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing)—in the difficult position of trying to be in two places at the same time. The needs and requirements of Scottish Members should be borne in mind when such arrangements are made.

Thirdly, I welcome to the Government Front Bench the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, the hon. Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro), who is responsible for fisheries in Scotland. His record in the fishing industry has already been mentioned and I hope that I am not damning him with faint praise when I say that hon. Members from fishing constituencies in Scotland hope for a rather more responsive attitude to our comments in the Chamber than perhaps we received from the hon. Member for Stirling (Mr. Forsyth), who was the hon. Gentleman's predecessor as Commons fisheries spokesman.

Even at this early stage, there are danger signs that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is in the process of changing from poacher to gamekeeper. We all remember his vigorous speeches from the Opposition Benches in defence of the fisheries industry. The letter that I received from the Under-Secretary of State on 2 June, to which two hon. Members have already referred, was a sign of an intellect in transition in respect of the hon. Gentleman's stance on the fishing industry.

The hon. Gentleman's previous remarks about the industry have been trenchant and robust, but in contrast the letter of 2 June casts a view of the industry which seems to suggest that everything in the past wee while has been a record of sweetness and light. The letter suggested that there is now an elegant inter-relationship in the industry between technical conservation, capacity constraints and effort control, and that we have the best fisheries policy in the best of all worlds. Perhaps when the Under-Secretary of State drafts his own letters and takes a more forceful role as a Minister, I am sure that he will cast his mind back to his own recollection—a memory that 1 share—of the real history of fishing policy over the past four years.

I remember that four years ago the Scottish Fishermen's Federation produced a raft of conservation measures and appealed for support for some excellent suggestions, but the Government's response was not, as the Under-Secretary of State suggested in his letter, one of constructive appraisal. At first, the Government pretended that the proposals did not exist. There was a full year's hiatus while the Government demanded that the industry put some conservation proposals on the table when the industry had already released a very extensive conservation document.

The Government then went through a secondary phase of blaming Brussels for the mistakes in terms of fisheries policy. [Interruption.] I am glad that the Secretary of State for Scotland has joined us. The epitome of that strategy occurred during the compulsory continuous tie-up scheme when Brussels was blamed for the eight-day tie-up, despite the fact that the Secretary of State had described it in this House as another sensible proposal.

The Government also decided to pick and choose which conservation measures to take from the industry's proposals. A good example of that from today's debate is the one-net rule. The Scottish Fishermen's Federation did not propose a one-net rule without the attendant change in the by-catch arrangements which would make that acceptable to the industry. The Government's current approach is not so much a carrot and stick approach as a stick and then the carrot approach. We have primary legislation before us on effort limitation but there is a consultation period in respect of the decommissioning proposals.

The track record in the past four years has not, as the Under-Secretary of State was perhaps forced to suggest in his letter to Scottish Members, been one of sweetness and light and accord in the industry. The track record has been one of exceptionally shabby treatment of one of Scotland's great natural resource industries.

I have agreed with the Minister of State on very few things in fisheries debates over the past three years or so in which he has been a fisheries Minister. I cannot think of a single measure or occasion when we have been anything but almost diametrically opposed in respect of his proposals for the industry, with the sole exception of the 80 mm square mesh panel. For a few brief weeks the Minister of State promoted that very hard. However, after mumblings about it at one Fisheries Council meeting, it was abandoned as a compulsory feature of policy. It now seems to be even disappearing from the industry's research projects.

I do not believe that the Government's track record in the industry accords with the new view of the Under-Secretary of State. At best, the measures on fishing policy have been perverse, often having exactly the opposite effect to that which was originally intended. They have certainly all been confusing.

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) asked questions about the maze of regulations which now afflict the white fish fleet. Perhaps I can help him by explaining the no fewer than five different standings under which boats in the white fish fleet can currently sail. For example, a white fish boat could sail with a minimum mesh size of 100 mm and a square mesh optional panel of 90 mm. Alternatively, in the directed whiting fishery, the mesh would be 90 mm. If, on the other hand, the boat fished west of Scotland, it might sail with a minimum mesh size of 80 mm with a square mesh panel of 80 mm. As an alternative to the 135-day tie-up scheme, a vessel could sail with a minimum mesh size of 110 mm and an optional square mesh panel of 100 mm and 67 tie-up-days or a minimum mesh size of 120 mm and an optional square mesh panel of 110 mm and no tie-up days. There are no fewer than five different standards for boats within the white fish fleet in relation to technical conservation.

Therefore, a boat could sail with 100 mm nets, 90 mm nets, or 80 mm nets depending on which area of the fishing grounds it is pursuing. On a cod end, a boat could have a limit of 100 meshes or no limitation at all, depending on the geographical area in which it is fishing. With regard to square mesh panels, depending on the geographical area, a boat could have a 90 mm optional square mesh panel, an 80 mm mandatory square mesh panel, or no requirement at all. In terms of strengthening bags with top-side chafers, there are no restrictions or no overlapping panel, once again depending on the area in which a boat is fishing.

All those regulations affect the white fish fleet at present. It is little wonder that many people in the industry believe that they are being snowed under by regulations which make a sensible framework of policy virtually impossible. It is only surprising that the enforcement proposals will involve additional expenditure of only —4 million. It is equally unsurprising that it is proving impossible to police present regulations and measures when there is such enormous complexity.

With such a track record, the Government should start to display just a little humility in their approach to the industry. The argument that the timing of this Bill does not really matter, that we are proceeding with primary legislation during a consultation period because this is just an enabling measure on which we shall get the details later, is one of the weakest arguments that we have heard even from the present Government. Unless we know the policy framework under which the Minister is to pursue his enabling measure, how on earth can we judge whether it is right and proper to give him the powers for which he is asking?

At the very least, the measure should be delayed until after the consultation period. The idea of a consultative period sits very uneasily with the decision to go forward with the unilateral imposition of the one-net rule. As has already been noted, it is having the most perverse effect of setting off a stampede into the white fishery.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has indicated that he will respond to our concerns. I hope that before he sums up the debate he will reflect on how ironic it is to propose legislation on effort limitation while simultaneously, as a by-product of that unilateral imposition, actually increasing effort in the very sector in which he is trying to limit it. The Government are enforcing a unilateral measure in respect of the one-net rule. There is no excuse, pretext, alibi or claim that the measure must go to a Fisheries Council meeting. The Minister is perfectly at liberty to say, "We shall think again about the one-net rule to see whether we can get through the by-catch changes which have been proposed for so long by the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and see whether the proposal can be implemented properly rather than causing the chaos, confusion and the undesirable, perverse effects currently occurring around the coast of Scotland."

As the House will note from our amendment, we also deeply resent the linkage element within the Government's fisheries policy. If, in the teeth of opposition by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, it is now accepted that decommissioning is a legitimate and sensible measure to be part of the overall fisheries policy, surely that measure should be accepted and promoted in its own right as a stand-alone measure and should not depend on the industry swallowing the unacceptable pills in the Bill and in the introduction of transferable quotas.

I certainly agree with the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) that certain aspects of the decommissioning scheme need to be looked at. Overall funding levels do not compare with what was available to other European fleets. The Minister of State said that the scheme that he is working to introduce is more powerful in financial provision than that which had been available to the French fleet. He did not mention the £130 million structural assistance which has gone to other Community fleets in the past three years but which has not been available to United Kingdom fishermen because of the Government's obduracy in refusing to introduce a proper decommissioning scheme. There must be a provision to compensate the crews of fishing vessels.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) and I do not always agree on every aspect of fisheries policy, but I have been very happy to support his campaign for justice for crews in the previous decommissioning scheme about eight years ago. It would be absolute folly, in pursuing a new decommissioning scheme, once again to make no provision for the crews of fishing vessels.

It is deeply resented in the industry that a sensible proposal which has been agreed on the Floor of the House and by most of the fishing industry can be introduced only if and when the industry is prepared to accept the unacceptable, as contained in the measure and in the proposal to move to transferable quotas.

The Minister of State claimed that the transferable quota proposal was not his "pet project", but rather an attempt to introduce market mechanisms into the fishing industry. Hon. Members who have followed the fortunes of the fishing industry in the past few years know all too well that the proposal in the consultation document is an uneasy compromise between the Scottish Office, which has wanted decommissioning for some years but has been resisting transferable quotas, and MAFF in London, which has wanted transferable quotas and market mechanisms but has been resisting decommissioning. The agreement between the two Departments has been to give the industry both. Unless the industry has both, the uneasy compromise between the two Departments will fall apart. I do not see why the industry should be made the victim of the fact that the various fisheries Ministers in their respective Departments cannot agree on fisheries policy and therefore have to browbeat the industry into accepting the unacceptable for the carrot of a decommissioning scheme.

The Minister of State says that transferable quotas are acceptable because it is not really a free market and the measure will be restricted to producer organisations. It is strange to argue for the introduction of market mechanisms in the fishing industry and then to defend that introduction on the basis that it is not really a free market after all. Hon. Members who represent fishing communities are extremely concerned that this will be merely the thin end of the wedge in terms of the final introduction of individual transferable quotas. Eventually, it will lead us—as it has led elsewhere in the world fishing community, for example, in the Bay of Fundy herring fishery in Canada —to a concentration of all quotas in a few hands, rather like the pelagic fleet at present; the white fish fleet will move down the same road, leading to possible destruction of the community-based, share fishing industry of Scotland.

I hope that the Government have noted the opposition on both sides of the House and will take the opportunity to think again about their attitude to the fishing industry. I was struck by the vigorous criticism of the Government's proposals by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris). It took my mind back to his speech on the Merchant Shipping Bill in 1988, when he made an extremely effective and equally vigorous denunciation of part of the Government's proposals. I remember being rather disappointed, however, that when it came to a vote the hon. Gentleman did not fully follow through the logic of his remarks. Conservative Members who, as a result of lobbying by their respective community fisheries, have serious doubts about the impact and timing of the legislation have available to them an amendment which would send the Government "homeward to think again."

Photo of Mr Phil Gallie Mr Phil Gallie , Ayr 7:19 pm, 8th June 1992

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for inviting me to make this, my first House of Commons speech. Thank you also for accepting that I have been in and out of the Chamber attending the Scottish Grand Committee which was organised as an extension at fairly short notice at popular request. I might point out that it finished well over an hour ago.

I shall comply with the traditions of the maiden speech, particularly by referring to the pleasurable news which came out at the weekend about my predecessor George Younger, now Lord Younger. It is particularly pleasing to know that his experience will be retained in another place. The valued knowledge that he has gained will be put to good use in our country in the years ahead, I feel sure. His honour is well earned. He was Member of Parliament for Ayr for 28 years. My contact with the electorate on the doorsteps showed a great deal of admiration and respect for George Younger.

There are special thanks for George Younger in my constituency for many things, perhaps none more important than our new hospital, the Ayr hospital, which was opened by the Prime Minister just last week. It is an excellent facility, built to time and built to cost. It is an excellent example of great Scottish civil engineering. Scotland is reputed for many aspects of excellence in engineering. The hospital was planned when George Younger was Secretary of State for Scotland.

The existence of the Craigie teacher training college in my constituency is also thanks to George Younger. It had been threatened with closure by Governments of opposing colours but has been retained thanks to the efforts of George Younger. British Aerospace, too, has been under threat at times, but it is now building Jetstream 31 and Jetstream 41, the only aircraft designed and constructed in Scotland for many years.

British Aerospace was also persuaded to stay in Prestwick by none other than George Younger. Prestwick airport is its base. It is often the only airport in Scotland— and probably in England—to remain open when skies are cloudy and the fog rolls over. The open skies policy presents new opportunities for Prestwick airport, particularly now that a new local company has been established to run it. Who is the chairman? None other than Lord Younger.

Ailsa Perth shipbuilders, which is very much involved in the fishing industry, was at one time threatened by closure under the dead hand of nationalised industry but was saved through a workers co-operative supported by George Younger. It is now prospering, and I suggest that it will do well in the years ahead.

Not only George Younger's constituents have reason to be grateful to him. As a junior Scottish Office Minister and as Secretary of State for Scotland he served the country well. He was recognised as a strong, determined Secretary of State and an achiever. Not only in Scotland but throughout the United Kingdom we owe him a debt, for as Secretary of State for Defence he proved equal to the task. Perhaps one point to remember is his background in the Army and his experience in saving the Argylls. That is a point for our present Secretary of State for Defence, another former excellent Secretary of State for Scotland, my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Edinburgh, Pentlands (Mr. Rifkind). Perhaps he should take on board some of George Younger's thoughts in respect of the Royal Scots and the King's Own Scottish Borderers.

My constituency of Ayr has 15 miles of golden beaches. It has two harbours—Ayr fishing and trading harbour, and Troon, where a safe haven provides good mooring for our fishing fleet. Fifteen miles inland good quality farmland embraces the towns of Ayr, Prestwick and Troon and the villages of Loans, Symington, Dundonald, Craigie, Monkton and Tarbolton. It is, to say the least, the heart of Burns country. Robert Burns, the United Kingdom's most celebrated poet, described Ayr people as, "Honest men and bonnie lasses". He was right. Burns was many things but never a fisherman. He was an excise man. Perhaps if he had to take on board today's Bill, he might have been one of the monitors that we seek.

The people of Ayr have a wide range of skills and interests—from city commuters to foundry workers, and from aircraft designers to fishermen. Recently, European Monitors were established in Prestwick freeport. Their reason for settling there, apart from the infrastructure—which is good but could be better, especially if the A70 was turned into a trunk road to benefit our industries as well as fishing—was the excellence of our people. European Monitors are welcome in Ayr.

I also welcome the conservation intentions in the Bill. Many of the measures relate principally to activities in the North sea, but their effects and requirements are of vital importance to the west coast fishermen and especially those on the Clyde. Prawn fishing in those areas runs the risk of over-exploitation. There is a real problem and a risk, not from the traditional fishermen of the area but from fishermen from other other locations. Prawn fishing is key to the activities at Ayr harbour. Loadings are important, but the export aspect is also of great import. There is also an impact on our tourist industry, on which Ayrshire depends. The harbour is a key attraction for tourists throughout the year.

As the hon. Member for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley (Mr. Foulkes) said, the Clyde fishermen have already taken their own conservation measures. They have imposed a voluntary weekend ban on fishing. Fishermen from the rest of Scotland comply with that ban but, sadly, not all fishermen do so. Some foreign interests still do not observe the ban. I welcome the comment of my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry) that this voluntary ban would be taken into consideration in future.

It is hard to understand the amendment tabled by the Scottish National party condemning the efforts at conservation, particularly in view of the history of discussions in Europe in which it was suggested that tie-up was the thing. British Ministers opposed that vigorously and we now have achieved a flexible solution.

I draw the attention of the House to the single-rig-multi-rig option. The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) suggested that there was confusion in ministerial ranks on the issue, but when I talk to the fishermen, certainly in the Clyde, I find a certain degree of confusion among them. There is a 50:50 split on whether to go for single-rig or multi-rig. I believe that dual rigs have certain advantages. Bearing in mind environmental issues and quotas, dual rigs would cut down fishing time at sea to obtain similar volume catches. I believe that there are savings to be found in using diesel. The dual rig system would bring important financial savings to fishermen. I wonder about the wisdom of the single-rig philosophy.

I understand that my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Sir H. Monro) might well consider a change of date for the imposition of single-rig. I am sure that all hon. Members would welcome that today.

I am also concerned at the unilateral nature of the Bill and about the fact that United Kingdom fishermen will be obliged to comply but others will not. Once again, I am encouraged by the words of my hon. Friend the Minister, who said that discussions were under way with the southern Irish about the management of stocks in the Irish sea and on the west coast. I am sure that that will be welcome.

I do not turn my back on the £25 million in cash which will be available for decommissioning—I welcome it. Scottish Members have been asking for just such a programme for years, and it would seem churlish to criticise today. However, having said that I welcome decommissioning, it has another side. There is a feeling in the fishing industry on the west coast that some support for family boats could have been sustained. I recognise the impracticalities of that. Probably I am impractical in believing that some advantage could be gained by decommissioning boats on the east coast and allowing transfer with subsequent west coast stand down.

I suggest that decommissioning and conservation measures can never be popular, especially in the fishing industry, but the long-term interests of the industry are at stake, and I support the Government's intentions in the Bill.

Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell , Great Grimsby 7:30 pm, 8th June 1992

I congratulate the hon. Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) on a forceful and vigorous speech, which was all the more effective for its strong defence of local interests. Fishing does not have enough advocates and defenders in the House. It needs the vigour with which he effectively defended the industry today. It is always possible for hon. Members to pursue the defence of those interests in the Lobby after the debate, and I am sure that the Government Whips will extend some indulgence to a new Member who is vigorously defending the interests of his fishermen.

The hon. Member for Ayr made a powerful contribution to the debate, and we concur with his praise for his predecessor, who was a nephew of one of my predecessors, Kenneth Younger, who made an important contribution to the House. I also welcome the hon. Member's praise of Robbie Burns, not because I have much knowledge of his poetry—my knowledge is limited to third degree Burns—but because he was a socialist and preached socialism in much of his poetry. It is good to know that the hon. Member is an enthusiast of Burns.

We all enjoyed the speech of the hon. Member for Ayr, unlike the Bill that we are debating, which is not merely retrograde but disastrous. If we pass it, we shall give Ministers a blank cheque—an authorisation slowly to strangle the fishing industry, which is important to us all.

I am sorry that the Minister of State is associated with the Bill. I congratulate him, in his absence, on his promotion. He has been an effective Minister with responsibility for fishing, whose interest in the industry we have all welcomed. He has been one of the best Ministers for fishing and has certainly taken a closer interest in the industry than many of his predecessors. It is a shame that he is marring that record with the Bill, because it puts him completely at variance with the industry, which was not consulted about the measure. It is no good saying that the industry will be consulted now. Retrospective consultation, while we are debating the measure, is no more than a request for a blank cheque.

The fishing industry is extremely angry and has united against the measure in a way which we have never known before. In long years of dealing with the industry it has always been disunited, as the hon. Member for Ayr said, and it has had a series of discordant voices urging different things, but it is totally united in opposition to the measure.

The Bill is disastrous because it goes down the wrong path. It pursues the dead-end street of control, regulation and bureaucratisation. The Minister might call it socialism, but I would call it the Delorisation of the fishing industry. It is the opposite of socialism, which sets people free. It is bureaucracy, control and restriction of the industry, based on the simple-minded equation that the way to cut catches is to remedy the Government's failure to cut the fleet through a proper decommissioning scheme, which should have been introduced several years ago. That is why we have to deal with this Bill—it is ministerial failure. The Government are trying to cut catches by cutting the amount of time that vessels can spend at sea, and that is a daft way to go about it.

The Bill will not be effective and it will put the British industry—including the Grimsby industry, with which I am concerned—at a serious disadvantage compared with that of our European competitors. We are asking the industry to compete with a ball and chain around its leg. While it is shackled because of the number of days that vessels can spend at sea, our European competitors will be competing for the same catches on the same grounds. However, their catches are not as closely monitored and controlled. Judging by evidence of arrests and prosecutions in Grimsby, many of our competitors do not keep proper log books and a proper account of their catches. They are not controlled, but our vessels' days at sea will be limited. The Bill will help our competitors, and fishing is a competitive industry.

The Bill will not affect stocks because our competitors will catch the stocks that our vessels are not catching. It will be particularly helpful to those flagships—the quota hoppers which are now registered as British—which fish from European ports but catch the British quota. How will their performance, in terms of days at sea, be controlled by the measure? When the Under-Secretary sums up, I hope that he will tell us how the quota hoppers will be policed and how their days at sea will be monitored.

Dutch quota hoppers have caught substantial amounts of plaice, and as a result the catches of Grimsby vessels, which catch plaice in season and in due proportion, have had to be limited because of over-catching by beamers. Quota hoppers will have to be limited, but as they land their catches overseas and are hardly accountable in this country, I do not understand how they can be effectively controlled.

The Bill merely shackles the fishing industry and interferes with its economics. It will be totally disruptive. If, as we are told, the aim is a 30 per cent. cut in effort, how will it affect the economics for each fisherman and fishing company, especially the larger, commercially-competitive companies on which we depend for catches in distant waters? The Bill will be as disruptive for them as for the smaller Grimsby vessels, which are barely profitable. Their catches are down and their receipts in the market have not proportionately increased. The smaller fishermen are staggering along. They are keeping going, but they will be held back when the limit on days at sea is introduced.

If one translates the 30 per cent. cut into the economics of income per vessel, the economics of a company and the viability of the industry, the effect will be disastrous. The result will he restructuring by bankruptcy and by liquidation. In compensation for the Government's failure to produce a proper decommissioning system and a managed restructuring of the industry, haphazard bankruptcies will be enforced because of the limits imposed by the Bill.

There has been no study of the Bill's effect on the economics and viability of the industry. Why not? Why cannot Ministers tell us how the Bill will affect vessels and the industry? Because they have not studied it. It is a leap in the dark, and the Minister is asking us to sanction it because he has wanted for so long to save money on decommissioning.

The Bill will have dangerous results. Vessels will put to sea in worse condition. Worst of all, it will not help conservation. When vessels are allowed to go to sea they will go fiat out to catch the maximum numbers, and it will not matter what species they catch. They will not target fish or go to specific areas to get them. They will go where they can to catch sufficient numbers, whether they be small or large fish. Vessels will have to make the maximum catch in the shortest possible time to use their gear to the maximum. By using larger crews or more intensive gear, it is possible to increase the catch. Nets could be in the water more destructively, and for longer, despite the days-at-sea limitation.

The Bill is not an effective conservation measure but will penalise conservation-conscious ports such as Grimsby whose fishermen have always used a bigger mesh net. Grimsby vessels use up to a 125 mm mesh because they practise selective catching—they want the largest, best, and most marketable fish. In future, they will be forced to catch as much fish as possible in the time that they have at sea, just to fill up.

Worst of all, the Bill will stop the search for other, more effective conservation-conscious solutions. Quotas are in themselves a bad way of controlling catches. They lead to discards and to political manipulation. In the past, we insisted on quotas, and now we seek a limit on the number of days at sea. We have not considered technical measures that could be far more effective in achieving proper conservation.

The fishing effort is more directly related to the type of gear, the way that it is used, and the size of the mesh, than it is to the number, horsepower, or tonnage of the vessels involved. The Bill is a national measure, so it should justify the search for national conservation measures. Why not consider even bigger mesh sizes?

Why not insist on the square panel? Why has square mesh research been left so late, and why has so much of it been left to the industry? Why not go ahead with square mesh panels, which John Ashworth's research indicates are an effective way of improving conservation, by allowing smaller fish to escape? Why not ban any gear that stops the escape of small fish?

Clearly, industrial fishing must be phased out. Fishing for human consumption must take priority. Why not ban industrial fishing altogether rather than seek conservation by a measure such as the Bill, with its disastrous effects on the British industry? Why not restrict beam trawling, with its destructive effects on the sea bed? Other measures could include the closure of specific grounds, and the observance of specific trawling bans in spawning seasons.

The industry is anxious to consult and is desperate to be heard. It has proposed solutions and conservation measures, and has itself financed a good deal of the research that should have been undertaken by the Government. Why has all that been left to the industry? Why has it not been consulted about effective conservation measures? Instead, it has had imposed on it blanket legislation. Why is the industry being asked to make the sacrifices that it is, and to risk bankruptcies and liquidations, because the Minister has not been successful in getting money for a decommissioning scheme from the Treasury all these years?

I speak almost obsessively of the Bill's effect on Grimsby, because during my time as its Member of Parliament I have witnessed the decimation of its fishing industry by the loss of distant waters opportunities. That of Iceland occurred before I was elected, but the consequences are still being felt. I watched the industry fight back, and reconstruct and reorganise itself as a nearer-water, small-vessel industry. Its prospect grew better until the late 1980s, when it faced a slow run-down, a reduction in catches, and a return that has not been enough to keep the vessels viable. The industry is now threatened.

We need a fishing industry concentrated in places such as Grimsby, which serve as centres of fishing excellence offering the right training and facilities. They support the market and offer a concentration of fishing that is now threatened. The industry needs the support of local communities to recruit fishermen.

The consequences of the Bill will fall particularly on share fishermen—on the badly paid crews who make a return for part of the year, but who often arrive home in debt. I receive letters from fishermen's wives asking, "Why is it that my husband can be sent to sea and come back owing the company large sums of money?" When a vessel has made little money, the crews earn hardly anything from the option of share fishing. Their catches will be cut by the Bill, and that will be disastrous for Grimsby.

The Bill will benefit quota hoppers, Dutch beamers, and Spanish vessels. They have the commercial power and the financial strength to buy up licences as British fishing vessels are driven into liquidation. It is appalling that Ministers are not examining ways of controlling quota hoppers through the tax regime and by regulating landings in this country. It is particularly appalling at a time when the Government are imposing the death by a thousand cuts that the Bill represents.

As Members of Parliament who represent ports and a fishing industry that is under-represented in the politics of this country, it is our responsibility to protect, nurture, defend, and sustain those ports through this difficult period so that they can be kept going as part of a viable, competitive industry, to inherit better catches in the better times that must lie ahead if we can get the conservation aspect straight. The Bill will not get it straight. It is a garotte that will be drawn tighter and tighter year by year. Ministers will find new ways of making surreptitious cuts by tightening that garotte around the neck of the fishing industry to the point of total strangulation. It is not our job to give Ministers a blanket authorisation to garotte the fishing industry that we are here to defend.

Photo of Mr Keith Mans Mr Keith Mans , Wyre 7:47 pm, 8th June 1992

I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) on his excellent maiden speech. I was particularly interested in his remarks about the aircraft industry, of which I have some knowledge. He is right to say that the two aircraft that are built at Prestwick have a huge future ahead of them—particularly in the American export market. I am certain that many jobs will be created by the success of the Jetstream 41 in particular. I also congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait) on her very good maiden speech. I am sure that we shall hear a great deal more from both of them in the coming weeks and months.

Many right hon. and hon. Members have aired their views and worries about the Bill. Before I do so, I wish to make a couple of general points. Whenever we debate the fishing industry, we run up against the fact that it is in many ways hopelessly over-regulated, and whenever we attempt to even the balance, we end up producing even more measures which make it even harder for many fishermen to earn a living.

We are now up against the problem of making things fair for fishermen in this country. We have no means of controlling the way in which foreign fishermen, or fishermen in other European Community countries, fish our own quota. I thought that the Minister's use of the word "subsidiarity" in this case was slightly misplaced. I am a great believer in the operation of the principle of subsidiarity throughout the European Community, but I think that the fishing industry is an exception. I would much prefer to see more uniformity in that industry across the Community so that we do not allow for the genuinely justified suspicion that, while we abide by the rules on quotas and the various methods of protecting our stocks, other nations have a slightly different view of how the regulations should be interpreted and applied. Across the board in the Community, from fishery protection duties to the number of people onshore checking the quotas and the amount of the catch that passes through a port, one sees considerable variations in the way in which regulations are applied. It will be difficult to ensure the uniform application of the days-at-sea proposal. If such uniform application is not obtained, it is likely that our fishermen will raise grievances because they will be forced to apply the rules others do not.

In my port of Fleetwood, we have, from the start, always been keen on measures to conserve stocks and in that respect we have a good record. The fact remains that the long-term viability of our industry depends on increased stability and consistency in the future. It is difficult enough to make a living out of fishing these days, but it has become much harder when the rules and the goalposts are changing almost by the month. If that happens, it is difficult to encourage new blood into the industry and ensure that the people who have invested in it already have the opportunity to obtain a fair return on that investment.

In that respect, I was pleased to note that the Government have finally come round to the view that we should have a decommissioning scheme. I know many people say that the scheme is too small and too late, and in some ways that view is justified. It is absolutely right that if the scheme had been introduced earlier we would not now be faced with other measures to reduce effort and preserve stocks. Nevertheless, I welcome the scheme and sincerely hope that it will be an effective method of reducing the size of the fleet while—at the same time—making it possible for the remaining vessels and fishermen to become more viable and thus able to take advantage of any new openings which may occur. From that point of view, I am convinced that it is a good idea.

I also urge the Minister to consider the cash limit if, in the future, it is shown that we can reduce effort and bring the amount of fishing more into line with the fish available by pushing a little more cash into the decommissioning scheme. That is a more effective way of producing a long-term and viable fishing industry than some of the other measures that have been mentioned. I hope that the Government will at least leave that door slightly open, bearing in mind the comments made by a number of hon. Members, and particularly the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace), on the cost to the Treasury of the scheme. We have heard all sorts of figures, but I do not think that they will be quite so large as some of the figures that we have heard from the Government today.

I welcome the introduction of a scheme for licensing vessels of less than 10 m. Clearly, that will get rid of the loophole which for the past few years has allowed some vessels to take easy advantage, whereby a new class of vessels of less than 10 m was introduced to get round the old system of licences for vessels of more than 10 m. Provided that that measure is used sensibly, it should have an effect on the amount of effort and the amount of fish caught in certain fisheries, particularly my own in the Irish sea.

The technical measures on the size of nets are welcome, as are the thoughts on grading machines, which I hope will result in fewer discards than has been the case recently. It is frustrating for fishermen to have to cast back into the sea large numbers of dead fish which simply float on the surface but cannot be fished because they are too small. It has been suggested that the grading machine rules should be revised, which is a good idea.

The most controversial and important part of the Bill is the days-at-sea and tie-up arrangements. My main worry on that method of reducing effort is the arbitrary way in which it is likely to achieve its purpose, if it does so at all. It will be almost impossible for the regulatory system to provide fairness and for that method of reducing effort to work properly. One of the key problems has already been mentioned. Fishermen, when they are allowed to fish, will have the perverse incentive to catch anything that they can, which will counteract some of the other measures designed to preserve stock. More of certain species will be caught than would otherwise be the case, because fishermen will rightly want to make the maximum attempt to fish wherever they can when they are allowed to do so.

The other problem is that in some parts of the country it is possible, because of the larger vessels in some ports, to counter-balance and make allowance for the effects of the tie-up regulations. Many of those ports will not be affected so much as others. I am particularly conscious of that in relation to my port of Fleetwood, which has a relatively old and small fleet. I am worried that its fishermen will put out to sea in conditions in which they would not normally do so simply in order to make ends meet. The tie-up may have a serious effect on safety and it will operate arbitrarily. I do not think that, ultimately, it will have a huge effect on the amount of fishing effort that takes place.

I acknowledge that the Government have taken the view that the Bill must form part of a much larger package to reduce effort and to preserve stocks, but I have yet to be convinced that it will work in the way the Government suggest. I urge the Minister to consider the way in which the enabling power will apply and to try to ensure that there will be at least a degree of fairness so that there will not be bankruptcy for some fishermen, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), while others remain unaffected. That must be avoided at all costs. If we are to have effective means of preserving stocks, we must have a system which applies the agony evenly across the country and between ports.

I welcome the Government's conversion to the idea of decommissioning, as it is something that many Conservative Members as well as Opposition Members have advocated for some time. The Government are going in the right direction and I also welcome the other aspects of the Bill, such as the technical and licensing measures. However, I have still to be convinced that the measures on tie-up and days at sea will be effective. I hope that we shall have more scientific evidence to prove that they will be effective before they are put into practice.

Photo of Eddie McGrady Eddie McGrady , South Down 7:59 pm, 8th June 1992

Those of us who read the Bill and then listened carefully to the Minister's response under cross-examination wondered whether we were discussing the same measure. It would probably be more fruitful for our debate if we could adjourn, read the Minister's response to the questions put to him, and then have a meaningful debate, not on what the Bill says but on the Minister's intentions. The cause and effect of the Bill will be determined not by the content or the written word but by that which does not appear: the regulations and the interpretations that the Minister will place on them. Indeed, in response to my question he gratuitously introduced an important measure. He undertook to set up an appeals procedure which would, I presume, be used to obviate the greatest injustices that will be created by the Bill.

The fishing industry in Northern Ireland has no doubt that the Bill will have far-reaching consequences. Some members of the Northern Ireland fisheries producers organisation have told me that it represents the most dramatic change since the Magna Carta. I stood back in amazement and thought that that was a gross exaggeration, but then I thought about it. The right to fish in the Irish sea from the ports of South Down, Kilkeel and Ardglass have existed since long before the Magna Carta and, for the first time in their lives, fishermen will be proscribed by law from obtaining their livelihoods from the sea, as they have done for centuries.

It is sad that the Bill has been introduced without the Government having fulfilled proper consultation with the various regional fish producers organisations, which we would normally expect when such dramatic measures are taken. Much has been made of the fact that the Bill is unilateral and would not apply to other EC countries. I see the irony of that more than other hon. Members because my constituency of South Down has a water border with the Republic of Ireland. It is five miles from the major fishing port of Kilkeel, so that five miles away boats will put out to sea without that restriction. I did not catch all of the Minister's remarks about his consultation with the Government of the Irish Republic and the subject matters that were covered, but it was clear that they covered that very subject. If they were not, that would be a gross anomaly, with the fishing fleets from Portavogie, Ardglass and Kilkeel putting out to fish with a grave disadvantage compared with those that leave from a port five miles down the coast.

Equally important to me, because of the type of industry that pertains in Northern Ireland, is the fact that the communities there that devote their time to fishing depend almost entirely on fishing and processing the products of the sea for the economic infrastructure of their towns. Severe damage will be done not just to the industry but to the communities that the industry has served so well and so faithfully over many centuries.

All of us subscribe to the need for conservation measures. Indeed, all the fishermen to whom I have spoken subscribe to that need. We are arguing about the most effective and fair way to accomplish those measures. The lack of decommissioning schemes has been one of the major contributing factors to the need to introduce such a draconian scheme. It is based on the fact that the fish producers organisations and many hon. Members including myself have, over the years, repeatedly asked the Government to introduce a meaningful decommissioning scheme in consultation with the industry and those who subscribe, as the fish would, to conservation.

As for the Bill's practicality, one of the most reasonable steps for the Government to have taken before introducing such a strong measure would have been to make a scientiffic assessment of the scheme's effect. It would be scientific in the sense of its effect on conservation, and scientific-economic in the sense of its effect on the industry and the communities that depend on it. It is ludicrous that the Bill should be introduced without that basic information being available to the Government.

The Bill is open-ended in terms of the ministerial power that it bestows. I shall read avidly the Minister's responses under cross-examination when he opened the debate because there is much more in what he promised than there is in the Bill. It would have been logical and proper for the Bill to have contained the most important of the undertakings that have been given verbally tonight. It is probably ironic that, at this moment in another place, the Law Lords are debating the validity of statements by Ministers outside the consideration of Bills. I look forward to hearing their decision.

The Bill's viability must be questioned. Will it achieve what it sets out to achieve? One of the first steps that the Government could have taken was to take out of circulation those parts of the industry that wished to go voluntarily. Having accomplished that, they could then have seen what the shortfall was before deciding how to legislate for it. People who are now being pressed to the wall economically because of the quota systems would be willing—nay, anxious—to get out of the fishing industry had the Government given them an even handshake as they would in any other industry by way of compensation, support or set-aside. A direct consequence of the Bill is that the most effective fishermen will not necessarily survive. There will be redundancies and fall-out in terms of people employed in the industry and those will not necessarily involve the most effective side of the industry. Those who will survive best will be those who are not totally committed to it. That will have a counter effect on an industry in competition with foreign fishing fleets, and the double jeopardy is that foreign fishing fleets will not be restricted by the Bill.

Some hon. Members have mentioned safety. I have no doubt that, once the Bill is enacted, skippers and crews who depend on the sea for their livelihood will increase the risk that they already take and either stay at sea longer in unsuitable and unsafe conditions, or will put out from port in conditions that they would otherwise not risk, to try to achieve the maximum catch to make themselves a viable economic unit. The fishing industry is like any other—if it is not a viable economic unit, it goes to the wall financially.

Another aspect of the Bill that weighs heavily with most of the fishermen to whom I speak is that of the bureaucracy that will be created. In the notes attached to the Bill there is a small comment about the number of jobs required and the cost of them. If the measure is to be effective, properly policed and adhered to, we should multiply that number by any figure from three to five. If it is not, there will be grave injustice.

The Bill is grossly unfair to the industry as a whole. Any other industry faced with the need to cut its production and act in the interests of others—including conservationists, environmentalists and ourselves—would be entitled to ask for reasonable compensation. Many other industries in this country are presently polluting the environment, and the reason they give for not introducing anti-pollution measures is that they would not be cost effective. If it is not cost effective for Sellafield, for example, to introduce maximum environmental protection mechanisms, the same could he argued for the fishing industry. Indeed, I would go further and say that the maximum cost should be met by the Government.

The Bill is not capable of being properly amended. As the Minister made clear in his opening remarks, the Bill contains many regulations and he has had to give many undertakings to the House to ensure that the Bill is sensible and practical. Therefore, I believe that the honest and proper thing to do would be to tear up the Bill and start again after full consultation with the fishing industry. That will not be done, but I believe that it is the right thing to do.

Photo of Mr John Sykes Mr John Sykes , Scarborough 8:12 pm, 8th June 1992

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in tonight's debate. As the new Member of Parliament representing Scarborough and Whitby, I am following in the footsteps of Sir Michael Shaw, who was our Member of Parliament for 26 years. He is universally popular and has exerted great influence over the constituency. From speaking to many people in Parliament. I know that Sir Michael is held in high esteem, both as an individual and as a parliamentarian. He was a long-standing member of the Chairmen's Panel and a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the Select Committee on Selection. When I was a new candidate, Sir Michael was helpful, and I know that I shall be able to call on his advice in years to come.

As well as their craggy, 45-mile coastline, Scarborough and Whitby also boast some of England's most magnificent countryside: the wild, rugged north Yorkshire moors, valleys forged millions of years ago by glaciers, and rolling wolds which are efficiently tended by hard-working farmers, whose forebears have tended the land for 1,500 years. In all, the district is an excellent touring base for holidaymakers.

Scarborough and Whitby have also played an important role in shaping our nation's history. Captain Cook, who discovered New Zealand, had connections with Whitby. I take it as a tribute to the ancient fishing town and its people that the American space shuttle, Endeavour, was named in honour of Captain Cook and his ship, which was built in the boatyards of Whitby all those years ago. As the shuttle travelled the heavens recently, it carried within its space-age hold the rudder from the original ship, Endeavour.

It is said that Whitby was once England's sixth largest port, and that it was also the first town in the country to benefit from street lighting, due to the plentiful supply of whaling oil. Travelling even further back in time, in 665 the synod of Whitby marked a turning point in the development of the Church of England. Its decision to follow Roman usages rather than Celtic usages brought the English church into much closer contact with the continent—perhaps that was an early version of "ever-closer union". That policy backfired when the English jettisoned the idea of ever-closer union during the reign of Henry VIII and the Reformation. That is a good reason for the European Community to hold its next summit in Whitby. Caedmon—pronounced Cadman—who lived in Whitby until he died in 680, is acknowledged by many to be England's first poet.

Whitby is bounded by the sea on one side and the north Yorkshire moors on the other. Most of the region comes under the control of the national park, about whose activities I receive more complaints in my postbag than anything else. The town has retained all its charm and escaped the excesses of 1960s and 1970s architecture. If one sails out of Whitby harbour and looks back, there will be little in one's view of the town that one's 19th century counterpart would not have seen had he or she undertaken a similar voyage.

Travelling further down the coast, passing the beautiful village of Robin Hood's Bay, one arrives in Scarborough. The headland was first used by the Romans as a warning station. I am glad to say that we make our visitors from Glasgow far more welcome these days. The Vikings prevailed in the end and Scarborough became a 10th century fishing village, taking its name from the Nordic chief who settled there, Skarthi. In the 12th century a Norman keep was built near the present castle.

An interesting factor about Scarborough and Whitby, which form one of Yorkshire's most beautiful constituencies, is that a slice of it is owned by the Duke of Lancaster. That was because Henry III's son Edmund received from his father the honour of Pickering and the manor of Scalby in 1267, at much the same time as he was granted the earldom of Lancaster, the land of which now comprises the Duchy. Therefore, I hasten to assure my hon. Friends from Lancashire that what I have told them is merely the result of historical continuity, not some great Lancastrian feat of arms during the Wars of the Roses.

Richard III, Lord of Scarborough, visited us in 1484 to review his fleet and subsequently granted us our town charter, the motto of which is "Loyalty Binds Me" —a fact that the Whips have already brought to my attention. Northstead manor in Peasholm was held by Richard III. As with the stewardship of the Chiltern Hundreds, a Member of Parliament who wishes to resign may apply for the stewardship of the Manor of Northstead—another fact that has been brought to my attention by the Whips.

In 1626 the spa was developed, so we can claim to be England's first resort. The town has many fine buildings due to Edward VII's patronage. It is a town with a proud royal heritage.

Another heritage of which we in Scarborough and Whitby are justly proud is that of the fishing industry—a heritage that spans 1,000 years. I call the fishermen in my constituency my floating voters, but not in the democratic sense. I have had experience of the fishing industry and of what the fishermen go through so that we may enjoy fish on our tables. I went to sea with Bob Walker, the skipper of the Jan Denise, on a rough night. It was a distinctly queasy experience.

The fishermen of Scarborough and Whitby are also feeling uneasy about the exact operation of the days-at-sea regulations that the Bill will allow the Minister to impose on them. I urge the Minister to take account of the fact that, if the days-at-sea regulations are to he based on 1991 figures, many fishermen in my constituency will he doubly disadvantaged as they were already under the days-at-sea restrictions in that year. Therefore, they could be facing restrictions on restrictions. Will the Minister consider the case of a fisherman in Scarborough who was said to have taken his boat out in order to assist a colleague whose boat was in trouble, only to find on his return that his mercy mission would be counted by officials as one of his days at sea?

It must also be remembered that, for safety reasons, smaller boats of less than 10 m are unable to set out in the adverse weather conditions that the larger vessels may risk. Will the Minister bear that in mind if he sets restrictions for smaller boats? All of us in Scarborough accept the need for conservation measures. but we also feel that we should press for measures to curb industrial fishing. Some of the factory ships trawl with nets which have mouths large enough to accommodate 12 jumbo jets merely to obtain fishmeal to produce animal feed. I hope that the EC—if there is to be one after last week—can get to grips with this conservation problem. In the meantime, we are proud of our fishermen in Scarborough and Whitby. They are extremely hard-working, and they deserve to be able to plan for a better and more certain future.

I have spoken of the living heritage derived from the fishermen and the livelihood. Let me also say something about the economic and cultural aspects of life in the area, and about the correlation between the two sectors. Although 25 per cent. of the population are enjoying their retirement in my constituency, it is also a place of opportunity for the young and for families. We have a thriving and innovative business community: technology and goods are exported from our towns to all four corners of the earth.

Pindar Graphics. based in Scarborough. prints many of the women's magazines that are currently available—and the Yellow Pages! McCains sells its oven chips, and other products, all over the world, using locally grown stock. Plaxtons leads Europe in the technology and innovation involved in coach building. I could mention many other companies.

We all hope for an early start to the A64 road improvement scheme, which will ease the flow of goods out and the flow of visitors in. I mention visitors because tourism is a vital part of our life. My constituency is a great holiday and conference centre. It enjoys some of the cleanest beaches in Europe, and it also has a longer summer season than any other holiday town. The Black and White Minstrels first performed in Scarborough, and Benny Hill was a regular visitor in his early days—before his blue period.

The north Yorkshire moors steam railway attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year, and the television series "Heartbeat" is filmed in the nearby village of Goathland. Bram Stoker's chilling tale of Dracula was set in Whitby, and even as we speak the famous and ancient Scarborough Fayre is taking place. I look forward to a return visit to Scarborough by the Prime Minister; perhaps he will attend our excellent Scarborough cricket festival, a major event in the cricketing calendar, and while he is there he may possibly visit the Stephen Joseph theatre in the round. Alan Ayckbourn premieres all his plays there, and it is where that great playwright does so much to encourage new talent and to bring the arts to ordinary people.

In the short time available, I have tried to convey an impression of the quality of life in my constituency—of the beauty, excitement and tradition that exist there. I hope that many right hon. and hon. Members will take the opportunity to visit us, and to see the constituency for themselves. They will be most welcome; but, just as important, they will discover the unique sense of identity of which all of us in Yorkshire are justly proud.

That is why I hope that, one day soon, our Government will abolish Cleveland and Humberside, so that my county and its ridings can be restored and Yorkshire can again stretch from the Humber to the Tees, as it once did for a thousand years.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar 8:22 pm, 8th June 1992

I congratulate the hon. Member for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes) on a fluent, entertaining and informative speech about his constituency, which also contained a sting in the tail for the Government in regard to the Bill. I have had the pleasure of meeting the hon. Gentleman, and I know that he comes from a manufacturing family background. I am sure that that will enable him to make a valuable contribution to future debates.

Before I deal with the Bill, let me raise a specific issue that threatens to dig a large hole in it. I refer to fisheries conservation. Last week, a judgment was made in Stornoway sheriff court that seemed to suggest that the Fishery Limits Act 1976 did not provide the protection that it had been thought to provide—protection, that is, against foreign vessels entering United Kingdom waters. It was decided that, when such vessels entered our territorial waters with the intention of fishing, they were not breaching the legislation.

Apparently, that loophole was exposed as long ago as 1983, and it comes as something of a shock to find that the Government have taken no action to close it. A Spanish vessel registered in Panama, for instance, can fish our waters without hindrance. I hope that the Scottish Office Minister who winds up the debate will explain why nothing was done about that earlier, and that he will tell us what the Government now intend to do.

No one has yet mentioned the increasing pressure that is being placed on lobster and crab stocks in United Kingdom waters. A working party was set up recently by the Sea Fish Industry Authority, including not only representatives of the industry but Government scientists. It produced an excellent report, which mentioned the increasing pressure to which I have referred. I particularly admired the report's approach to the need to tackle and reduce that pressure: it recommended a combination of national guidelines and regional implementation, by means of regional fishery committees.

The report pointed out that such arrangements did not yet exist in Scotland. I believe that such a system—national guidelines, along with the exercise of effort limitation on a regional basis—is appropriate, not just for the crab and lobster fishery but for United Kingdom fisheries in general. I hope that the Government will adopt the report's recommendations about the shell fishery, and that those that are seen to work well are subsequently extended to other areas. I also hope that the Minister will discuss the recommendations when he winds up, and will tell us when the Government hope to respond to them. In fishery debates, I have constantly stressed the need for a policy that is sensitive to the regional differences around the United Kingdom coastline—around the Scottish coastline, indeed—and I am delighted that the working party has taken up the issue.

It is important to distinguish not only between regional features of the United Kingdom, but between different kinds of fleet and different kinds of fishing. There is, for instance, an important distinction to be drawn between inshore and offshore fleets. I do not consider it fair to impose uniform effort limitation regulations across the industry; a distinction must be made between those two fleets. I wish to illustrate the difference by referring to two aspects of the Bill and the regulations that the Government have recently produced: the one-net rule, and the days-at-sea restriction.

A number of objections have been made to the one-net rule across the board, but it is clearly much more damaging to the smaller inshore fleet than it is to other parts of the United Kingdom fleet. The fishermen in my constituency are seriously concerned about the effect of the one-net rule, unless there is an adjustment to the by-catch restrictions. Without such an adjustment, the Western Isles fishery will be destroyed.

If I may explain why they have that fear—which is genuine, not exaggerated—the Western Isles prawn fishery depends upon a certain amount of white fish by-catch. Fishermen in the Western Isles fish for prawns during the day and switch to fishing for white fish during the hours of darkness. That policy can be pursued fairly well during the summer months, but I am sure that the Minister will appreciate that during the winter months the hours of daylight in the Western Isles are very short. Therefore, fishing for white fish becomes all-important for the local fleet during the winter months, between October and March.

At the moment, local fishermen enjoy the privilege of having valuable prawn grounds in close proximity to good white fish grounds. They are between four and eight miles apart. As the hours of darkness begin, the fleet can easily switch from one fishery to the other. If, however, the one-net rule is introduced without any flexibility, the boats will be required to steam all the way back to harbour where their nets will have to be changed before they can return and fish for white fish. The steaming time is between six and eight hours. It would be impossible for boats of under 400 hp to do that. Local inshore fleet boats are usually under 400 hp. A serious threat, therefore, faces the Western Isles fishing fleet.

It is important to distinguish between inshore and offshore fleets. Apart from the effect that this rule would have on the inshore fleet, one has to remember that inshore fleets have hardly any impact upon the overfishing of white fish. For example, the Western Isles fleet accounts for less than 1 per cent. of the total allowable catch of white fish off the west coast. The whole of that catch is taken during the winter months. The fleet is then absolutely dependent upon its white fish catch for survival. In no way can the Western Isles fleet be considered to be causing a problem in the white fish category, yet its dependence upon that category in the winter months is critical. To remove the fleet's capacity to go after white fish might destroy the fleet. Local fishermen have expressed their serious concern about that to me. I do not believe that their concern is exaggerated.

There are ways to get round the problem. One way would be to grant a by-catch restriction exemption for smaller boats. Boats of under 400 hp could be exempted from the by-catch restriction. Alternatively, separated trawls could be made exempt from the by-catch restriction. I am told that the use of separated trawls has led to exemption from the European Community by-catch restriction in the Bay of Biscay, so that could be done without changing the EC by-catch rules.

An argument can also be made for trying to use the United Kingdom's presidency of the Council to change some of the by-catch rules, in particular the by-catch rule that affects non-protected species such as dogfish and skate. It makes no sense to include those categories within the by-catch restriction.

I understand that other hon. Members want to speak, so I intend to confine my final remarks to the days-at-sea restriction. Uniform imposition of the days-at-sea restriction across the whole of the fishery makes no sense when one takes into account the differences between the offshore and inshore sectors. In particular, simply to freeze everything at 1991 levels is unfair to those fleets that are not seven day a week, 24 hour a day, double crew fleets but that already pursue a much more moderate, conservationist style of fishing. Account ought to be taken of that fact.

To return to a suggestion that I have made frequently in the House, the Government ought to implement the weekend ban on prawn fishing on the west coast. The prawn fishermen are themselves calling for such a ban. It would cost the Government nothing, it would be easy to enforce, and it would reduce fishing time by 30 per cent. —much more than the days-at-sea restriction called for by the Government. Although there are many other points that I wish to raise, I am sure that I shall have the opportunity to do so in Committee.

Several Hon. Members:

rose

Photo of Mr Michael Morris Mr Michael Morris , Northampton South

Order. It may help hon. Members if I announce that the wind-up speeches will start at 9.20. Short speeches will therefore ensure that more hon. Members can make a contribution.

Photo of Mr David Porter Mr David Porter , Waveney 8:36 pm, 8th June 1992

I appreciate, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that you have urged hon. Members to make short speeches. I am grateful to have this opportunity before the end of the debate to make the only speech on behalf of an entire region—East Anglia.

Three of my hon. Friends have made excellent maiden speeches. The presence of new Members of Parliament in the first fisheries debate of this new Parliament is very welcome. As the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) said, the same Members of Parliament tend to discuss all offshore matters—coastal protection, health and safety, sea pollution and anything to do with the oceans—including, even, Maxwell's helicopters. Quite often, we find agreement across the Chamber. Occasionally, we find that whoever is sitting on the Treasury Bench agrees with us. I fear, however, that tonight there will be no such agreement.

Following last week's excitements when the supertanker of the European state took a hole very near the water line, it is tempting, feeling as I do against any deepening of Europe beyond a free-trading entity, to rock the boat a little more tonight and get some more water through that hole. Assuredly enough, the Bill is a very small link in the European chain that anchors a once proud and mighty British industry to that insensitive tanker.

As Fishing News of 29 May said: To limit the days a fisherman is allowed to spend at sea is to restrict his ability to make a return on the capital he has invested … Where is the compensation in all this for those who can't live on their ration of days at sea? That is just one of several questions to which we have had no answers tonight.

To turn to the question of why the Bill is being rushed into Parliament. I am surprised that nobody has yet pointed out that tomorrow there is to be a Council of Ministers meeting. The Government want the Bill to be given a Second Reading tonight so as to strengthen Ministers' hands at that meeting. I do not accept that. Why is it that these far-reaching, deep-seated and drastic steps and changes to our way of life have to be accepted instantly and when the Government tell us it is good for us? We are told that, somehow, we shall miss a cruise on this great Eurotanker and that if we do not jump for it right now we shall miss the boat. The Government do not allow for the fact that it is not now and for ever. We may get another that we like better later on, or we may not even get on board this particular cruise at all.

In the last Parliament I spoke a number of times on fisheries matters, each time in a way that was critical of policy or, as the jargon of my Whip has it, in a way "unhelpful to the Government". I recognise that the Government have an impossible job in getting fisheries policy right. It cannot be done. Reading this Bill and the industry's reaction to it means that those who thought that the Government would conclude that less regulation might work where more has failed are going to be disappointed. Much stress has been placed on the message that the Bill is part of a package. It is free standing, but it must be seen in the context of a raft of measures designed, we are told, to conserve fish and to keep the industry viable. The raft gets heavier each year as new rules, regulations and restrictions are piled on it. Why is that? Because the common fisheries policy has failed and cannot deliver conservation or viability in anything but an ideal world.

The reality of the sea fish industry—whether it be catching, selling, coping with more regulation than the British nuclear industry or competing with the EC—is that the difficulties are hard enough, so why on earth pile on more regulations?

That leads to the question that we as a nation need to address. Do we want a British fishing industry? Pause while we all mentally answer yes, but I should like that reassurance from the Minister.

Only Ministers want the Bill. No Member with a fishing interest in his or her constituency has praised the Bill. None of our constituents seem to want it or think that it will work. I do not want to do Ministers, or their advisers, an injustice, but none of them—certainly neither the Minister nor I—has tried to earn a living on a boat for which we have mortgaged our houses and family lifestyles for 365 days a year, when we cannot work as many days as we need to, when we see other Europeans fishing the same waters laughing at us because they do not have the same restrictions and when we are bobbing about in the North sea risking life and limb puking over the side. How can I tell them that this medicine is what they must take when they tell me, because they know, that they do not want it? Do I know better than them? Does my hon. Friend the Minister and his advisers know better? I plead with my hon. Friend to address that point today.

All hon. Members regard parts of their constituencies as a touchstone, a yardstick. After the hothouse atmosphere of this place, anywhere in Waveney acts as such for me, but in particular the Lowestoft fishing market does. If an idea is sellable, it will sell there. If it is not, fishermen will not touch it. It was there that I recognised that the community charge must go. I went to the wall on that because I believed in it, against advice from outside, but despite what I thought personally I could not say that I knew best and that it must continue. The same applies to this Bill.

The big question that we must answer before 10 pm is how do we tell a struggling industry that we shall hold its head under water for a while and that if it drowns, never mind, the Dutch, French and Spanish will put fish on British tables?

The industry is fragmented and divided, not just country to country or port to port but section to section within a port. I understand the enthusiasm of my hon. Friend the Minister for a package that this year, like last year, appears in theory to be the great white hope. He must be exasperated by the industry and perhaps by me and other hon. Members who clamoured for a decommissioning scheme and who, when offered one, are still not happy. I wish that we were. The irony is that, three years ago, such a scheme might have done the job and might have reduced the fleet size and the effort. As other hon. Members have said, £25 million now does not touch it. It will make it possible for more efficient boats and more countries to catch more fish and to increase their effort. The decommissioning scheme is still not for the whole industry. It still will not reach all the fishermen who will be put out of work and it will still leave the British taxpayer paying more into our competitors' schemes than our fishermen could get out.

Although this part of the decommissioning package may not be a great hit, it may allow my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to tell the House in future that it has not worked and that he was against decommissioning all along, which, of course, he was. He will also say, as has been said, "The Bill is just an enabling measure", but once it is on the statute book it can and will be invoked.

The issue of consultation has been raised again and again tonight. Only today, I received a copy of a response to the consultation from the Lowestoft Fishing Vessel Owners Association, dated 4 June. That has not been digested. Was any consultation digested before the introduction of the Bill? The Minister cannot consult every fish merchant, lumper, seaman, skipper, boat owner or harbour master in the country on every issue, but he can open the quota-setting processes as widely as possible within the United Kingdom. Such people have the voices of experience. Why does not the Minister listen and consider those voices with the siren voices that sometimes come from Whitehall as he is navigating the policy ship?

The review of the CFP is an opportunity for Ministers properly to take stock. If they take the line that if we did not have a common fisheries policy we would have to invent it, fair enough, but let them look afresh at every idea, old and new. As the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) hinted, every part of the United Kingdom is different. What may be right for Scotland may not be right for East Anglia. Although proper compensation schemes for redundancy and scrapping will apply universally, they will have different implications and different impacts on local communities. Let the Minister remember that as he tinkers with the common fisheries policy.

What has upset the industry is the draconian nature of the Bill, and if the Minister reduces the fleet by bankruptcy he will go down in history as the most successful British fishing Minister.

The other part of the package is total allowable catches and quotas, the so-called bedrock of the CFP. We now hear that scientific evidence will not determine TACs in the future. As hon. Members will know, as well as representing fishermen and merchants I have the MAFF fisheries department at Lowestoft in my constituency. I know how important scientific evidence is and how much weight successive Ministers attach to it. Politicians and officials will take other factors into account. Hopefully, that will mean the survival of the British industry. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has long argued for more emphasis on technical conservation measures, but it recognises, as we all must, the interconnection of species so that the development of multi-annual TACs will help longer-term planning, which the industry has not had for a long time. Without relative stability we might as well turn every port into a museum and go home tomorrow. I hope that the Government will stick by their resolve on that.

The NFFO and others support the continuing preference for fishermen within the 12-mile zone. My hon. Friend the Minister mentioned that in opening, and I congratulate him on doing so. I imagine that Ministers will have that in mind as they join in the mid-term review of the CFP in Europe. Determination to hold the line around the table with 11 other Governments is absolutely right, but to show that the Government are prepared to sacrifice even part of an industry is not the right way forward.

I finish, as I have in other fisheries debates, with some questions. I hope to hear some answers, if not now at least before the Committee finishes. In addition to my heart-felt plea for some real justification for the Bill that I can explain to my constituents who face the dole, is not the days-at-sea restriction totally alien to the British natural conservation policy? What is happening to other EC fleets? Do such restrictions apply to them? If so, why do we not have a list of them? Does my hon. Friend recognise the sense of injustice that prevails not only about the unfair enforcement policy but about our competitors having the edge over us all the time? What research has been conducted? Which ports and which boats will be affected? What is the impact on regional economies, particularly on East Anglia? What is the impact on the fishing effort, which, after all, is what we are supposed to be considering? I sit down in the hope that we can get some answers, but I bear in mind that we may not and that we must face the fact that part of the fishing industry is doomed.

Photo of John Taylor John Taylor , Strangford 8:47 pm, 8th June 1992

I congratulate hon. Members who have made maiden speeches.

I refer the House to clause 5, a simple clause which states: This Act extends to Northern Ireland. As the fisheries spokesman for the fourth largest party in Parliament, I am glad to have caught your eye, Mr. Deputy Speaker.

In 1972, a Conservative Government abolished devolution in Northern Ireland and instigated, as a temporary measure, a system of direct rule whereby legislation for Northern Ireland would be introduced by Orders in Council. Right hon. and hon. Members from Northern Ireland would not have the right to amend Northern Ireland legislation. That temporary measure is becoming more like taxation, which was also introduced as a temporary measure.

The Bill is a simple example of how that offensive system of maladministration of Northern Ireland can be changed. One line in the Bill makes it clear that the Act extends to Northern Ireland and that, on this rare occasion, we are debating a United Kingdom measure. On behalf of my colleagues in Northern Ireland, I express our appreciation to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other members of his ministerial team for introducing a United Kingdom Bill. It is significant that the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is among its supporters.

As I listened to the Minister's introductory speech, I was afraid that we were going through a nightmare and that we were again going to run into great bureaucratic problems in the fishing industry. The measure will curtail fishing, not long after the European Economic Community—as it was then called—was giving grants for more and more fishing boats. The same happened in the milk industry—the Community gave grants for more and more cows and more and more dairies but, all of a sudden, quotas were introduced to reverse what the EEC had been doing, and we are now in the same situation in the fishing industry.

As other hon. Members have said, fishermen themselves accept the fact that there must be conservation of the fishing grounds. We in Northern Ireland appreciate the decision taken by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to ban the twin rate. It is especially welcomed by the nephrop fishermen in South Down, as the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady) said, and in my constituency of Strangford. However, we cannot understand why there should be an exclusion clause for the Fladen Ground in the North sea. At some stage, I hope that the Minister will be able to explain more precisely why that particular ground was excluded.

The Minister said that the Bill will merely empower Ministers and that it is an enabling Bill. That is all right as far as it goes, but we must be told what role right hon. and hon. Members will have in discussing the details which follow the Bill. Unless we receive an assurance in that regard, I would hesitate to support the Bill.

The Minister said that we were in a period of consultation, and we must place on record our congratulations to him on the consultation paper that he sent to various organisations in the fishing industry. The very full consultative document contains 14 pages and should receive a positive response from all involved in the industry. However, I notice that on the back page, among the 26 organisations which were consulted in England, Scotland and Wales and even the Isle of Man, no reference is made to consultation with the industry in Northern Ireland. I do not know why consultation was omitted there when the Bill states that it applies to Northern Ireland.

I deal now with the licensing of vessels of under 10 ft. I accept the Minister's suggestion that it was a necessary measure. If we curtail vessels of more than 10 ft, it is clear that we shall undermine what is trying to be achieved if we give total freedom to those under 10 ft. [HON. MEMBERS: "Metres."] Vessels of under 10 metres—I was brought up with imperial measures. I heard someone referring to Mr. Deputy Speaker as Madam Deputy Speaker some time ago, so we all make mistakes.

Clause 3 increases fines to a maximum of £50,000. That is a very harsh fine, but it has not been mentioned so far. Will the Minister tell us what the present fine is? What is the increase if there is to be one?

We must also deal with effort control, the limiting of the days at sea, and the compulsory tie-up in port. Many hon. Members said that there would be arguments about the 1991 base. We have been told that a committee or panel will consider various applications. 1991 was a bad period for the fishing industry in Northern Ireland. Those interested in the fishing industry there will remember that for the first three months of 1991 there was a prolonged period of very bad weather when the fleet was tied in. That is why taking a particular year as a base is a very dangerous way to proceed when deciding how the limit on days should be applied.

The Minister was good enough to mention the problem of Sundays, and it is a major problem in Northern Ireland. The Sabbath is generally observed there and in the fishing village of Portavogie which has almost 100 boats of 10 metres, not one boat goes out on the Sabbath—they go out one minute after midnight. That applies not only in Portavogie but elsewhere in Northern Ireland and, I suspect, in Scotland—perhaps there is also some religion left in England where it might apply.

When considering which days to curtail the fleet, may I ask the Minister to ensure that if it is to be one day in the week, it should be Sunday. If it is not Sunday, it will discriminate against all the fishermen in my constituency. If it is to be two days in the week, one of the days should also be Sunday. I am inclined to agree with the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) that there should be a curtailment of weekend fishing which would satisfy us in Northern Ireland and the people in the western part of Scotland.

The restrictions on the British fishing fleet are a worry if they are not to apply to foreign fishing boats in our own waters. Some examples have already been mentioned but, as the hon. Member for South Down said, our main concern in Northern Ireland would be the southern Irish boats. Unless the same measures apply to them in our area, there would be a great problem because the Northern Ireland fishing fleet would be tied up but southern Irish boats could come into our waters. Clearly, that would create a problem in Ireland, where we perhaps have enough problems already without creating another.

We experienced another example of the complication caused by different legislation in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland only a few week ago when a boat from my constituency was seized by the southern Irish fishing authorities outside Kingstown because it had no ladder to enable the fisheries inspector to board the boat to inspect it. That is not a requirement in the United Kingdom, but it is the law of the Republic of Ireland. When British boats, whether from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, go into southern Irish waters, they will be brought before the courts as that skipper was and charged with not having a ladder. That shows that having different fishing laws for each nation causes great confusion and that it is better to have a common fisheries policy in such instances. That is why I follow the line of the hon. Member for St. Ives. (Mr. Harris) that we should have restrictions common to the whole Community, not ones which apply only to British boats and not to foreign boats in British waters.

I want further explanation from the Minister as to why we shall not get compensation for the days on which boats are tied up. Perhaps the Minister does not have the money. If that is the reason, he should say so. If there are other reasons, he should explain them more fully.

The fishing industry says that not enough finance is being made available to make the decommissioning scheme effective. There has not been a proper response to that allegation by the fishing lobby. I should like the Minister to tell us what impact he thinks that his present decommissioning proposals will have on the future size of the British fishing fleet. Let us hear him spell out the results that he expects from the present decommissioning proposals.

I ask the Minister to reconsider the date of implementation of the decommissioning scheme. The Minister says that it will apply to ownership of boats prior to 1 January 1992. Boats have changed hands since 1 January 1992, and as his statement announcing the new policy was made on 27 February 1992 the scheme should extend to cover ownership of boats up to the date of the statement.

Clearly, there are many criticisms of the Bill. I shall vote against the Scottish National party's reasoned amendment, but the general thrust of the Bill raises many problems which require more effective replies. In Committee, the Ulster Unionist party will oppose some of the clauses.

9 pm

Photo of Mr George Kynoch Mr George Kynoch , Kincardine and Deeside

I will try to be brief because I know that many other hon. Members want to speak. My constituency fishing interests are mainly the smaller vessels—the 50-footers. My predecessor, the late Alick Buchanan-Smith, was a great champion of the fishing industry. Having visited the ports in the constituency, I can understand why.

The fishing port of Gourdon is a relevant example. Some 10 years ago, there were 18 50-footers in the port; now there are only three, which support six fish-processing companies and fish merchants. That port and its fishermen depend greatly on conservation and they believe vehemently in conservation.

The fishing boats, which go out only for two days rather than for longer periods as the larger fishing boats do, provide a steady stream of fresh fish to the fish processors and consumers in the area. It is vital that the fishing port should survive, and it can do so only through conservation. At present, the fishing boats struggle to catch their quota not because of restricted days, but because of the lack of fish.

It is interesting that no one claims credit for supporting the Bill. I believe that the Bill must go through. It is an enabling measure and a first step to ensuring that we get decommissioning, which all of us in Scotland have sought for so long.

I know that many people complain that the amount of decommissioning is insufficient, but surely if we apply decommissioning at the suggested level and couple it with the restricted days we can ensure that the boats that remain in the fleet do not make up for those which are taken out of it.

It is vital that the details behind the licensed days are worked out carefully. I was pleased to hear the Minister stress flexibility because flexibility is desperately needed, not just on licensed days, but in the definition of days at sea. There have been references to maintenance. In the port of Stonehaven, there is a fisherman who used to give the use of his boat to the local education authority to take school children on educational trips round oil rigs. That counts as a day at sea fishing; such days must be taken out of the definition of a day of fishing and, therefore, not counted.

It is important for everyone that conservation is made to work. It is important that the Bill is passed so that we can get decommissioning and conservation. We can then get a controlled and balanced supply of fish. We must ensure that the Minister looks after the small ports and the smaller boats, and that the licensed days are not applied in such a way that we end up with just the larger boats at the expense of the smaller ports. Whole communities are at stake in the smaller ports, which have a long history and tradition. Whatever assistance is given to those ports in the event of closure, it will not replace an industry which provides an exceedingly valuable service to the nation.

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger , Pembroke 9:04 pm, 8th June 1992

Last July, the Milford Haven middle-distance fleet effectively collapsed. Having pleaded with the Government for almost two years to introduce a decommissioning scheme under which they could rationalise, restructure and reduce the size of the fleet, the fishermen found market forces taking over, and seven trawlers owned by three separate companies had to cease operations.

The effect on the port of Milford Haven was significant. Scores of people who worked both ashore and afloat were made redundant. The people of Milford Haven were staggered by the Government's announcement in February that they had performed a U-turn and were to introduce a decommissioning scheme after all. I hope that the Minister will explain in detail to the people of Milford Haven, who are unemployed as a result of the Government's refusal in 1990 and 1991 to introduce a decommissioning scheme, why they have decided to do so now.

The bitterness felt by the people of Milford Haven is added to by the fact that the pressure stock licences attached to those vessels were recently bought by Irish interests. The vessels were sold back to the receiver for a nominal sum and the licences were re-sold to beam trawlers in the North sea. That means that we not only have no fleet, but we have no locally controlled pressure stock licences with which to regenerate our fishing industry in Pembrokeshire. I hope that the Minister will explain why this significant change of view, welcome though it is, has taken place so late.

Many hon. Members have referred to flags of convenience—ships supposedly owned by British companies but in fact exclusively controlled by Spanish interests. Milford Haven has certainly been experiencing Spanish influence in the past year or two. It may interest hon. Members to know that Spanish interests plan to establish a producer organisation known as the Wales and south-west fish producers organisation, which will effectively be controlled from Corunna, Gijon and elsewhere. The organisation will have 42 vessels, and the idea is basically to secure and control the British quota available in the Irish sea. I hope that the Minister will address himself to the question of how those 42 vessels' operations can effectively be policed. Under the current legislation, they need only call at a British port four times every six months. How will the Minister administer the rules governing the number of days on which they put to sea and fish if they are operating from Spanish ports?

If we are to have conservation, it is vital that there should be a level playing field. It is ludicrous that British seamen should go out and risk their lives playing to a strict set of rules with increased policing—the 60 or 64 man-years in the consultative document and the Bill—while Spanish, French, Belgian and Dutch fleets, and even flag-of-convenience vessels from Panama, fish in our waters but fail to operate under those rules. That is totally unfair and I do not see how the Minister can justify his argument for a unilateral position and rules which the EC as a whole will not enforce.

Before the war, and for the first two decades thereafter, the Milford Haven fishing industry was renowned. We need regulations that people can understand and stability to regenerate our fishing industry. Frankly, the Bill goes nowhere near to achieving that.

Photo of Bob Spink Bob Spink , Castle Point 9:09 pm, 8th June 1992

The Castle Point fishermen are an independent and resourceful people. We have a fleet of about 18 boats. With respect, our fishermen understand as well as anyone in this place that, unless fish stocks are properly conserved, there will be no fish left for them or their children to harvest. I therefore congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister of State on his driving vision to protect the fisheries, but not on the consultation process, which has been too short. My hon. Friend the Minister of State cannot take unlimited powers to stop my constituents from working.

We have about nine boats in the 7-to-10 m range and nine boats in the 10-to-12 m range. Let me give a typical example of a Canvey Island fisherman called Mr. Davis. He is a British registered sole fisherman and an independent owner-skipper with a small boat working in the Thames estuary. He is now allowed to catch only 0.25 tonnes of sole a month. A year ago he had no quota and he caught on average about 0.5 tonnes a month.

Mr. Davis is not a member of a producer organisation and nor does he want to be a member of one even if that is inconvenient for the Ministry. I applaud his independent, self-reliant stand. Why should he be forced to join the club? That would be a restrictive trade practice and, as a Conservative, I have been fighting such practices for many years.

Whenever a boat stops fishing and is decommissioned, the producer organisation can buy that boat's days at sea and quota. That could lead to five factory boats owning 75 per cent. of the United Kingdom sole quota. That would be anti-competitive and it would damage the interests of my independent fishermen.

Mr. Davis fishes for sole and a few eels in summer and for cod when they come up the Thames to spawn in autumn. He fishes for sprats at Christmas. He is basically laid up in February, March and April.

That background is important to understanding the safety point that I raise on behalf of the Holehaven Fishermen's Association. Let me explain why the days-at-sea fishing restrictions would dramatically denigrate their safety, especially on top of the current weight quota. The weather of course is already a severe restriction, particularly for smaller boats such as those of the Castle Point fleet. There is almost a total lack of local harbour facilities, and there are the most severe tidal restrictions around Benfleet creek. In addition, as I explained earlier, the fish are available only on a short seasonal basis and there are no fish at all in some months.

Clearly, there would be pressure on the owner-skippers to go to sea in worse weather conditions than they would attempt without the day restrictions and for them to stay at sea for the full 24-hour allowance on the allotted day. There may be pressure on them to load their boats a little more, and to stay at sea longer and in worse weather than they might choose now.

Our small boats have just one man aboard. What happens if he feels tired? His house is on the line, he has mouths to feed and a mortgage to pay, but his catch is still too small. He may not be allowed to go out again for some days because of the allocation, but by that time the season may have ended and the fish will have gone with it. His living will then also have gone. That is indeed stress.

Our Castle Point small boats are threatened by the Minister's day allocation proposal. That cannot be right or fair. The increased danger would be intolerable. Castle Point fishermen already risk their lives to feed this nation in one of the most dangerous occupations in this country. I am sure that the Minister will want to find ways to alleviate the problems and to compensate small boat owners properly and perhaps even those below the 10 m threshold.

I should be delighted if the Minister would visit Castle Point and would meet some of our professional independent owner-skippers. They would be the first to applaud his aims to conserve fish and to welcome his appeals system. However, they seek fair play, continued fishing, and proper compensation if they cannot fish. After all, as hon. Members know, it was not my small fleet that stripped the seas of fish; it was the factory ships. Yet the Minister's plans would attack my small independent fleet the most.

Photo of Mr Stuart Randall Mr Stuart Randall , Kingston upon Hull West 9:14 pm, 8th June 1992

The debate has shown that there is deep concern about the Bill. Certainly there has been deep concern about the lack of consultation before the Bill was produced, and about the amount of money allocated for decommissioning purposes. The feeling in the industry is that, as a result, many small fishing companies will go to the wall because they are operating on limited profit margins. The limited time at sea could also have serious implications for safety, especially on small vessels. I should like the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to explain how, with limited time at sea, one will be able to do quota management. Clearly that will create problems. Also, how will quota management work in practice?

I represent the port of Hull, which, until about 12 years ago, was the biggest fishing port not only in Britain but in Europe, with a massive distant water fleet. Of course, with the introduction of the Icelandic 200-mile fishing limit and the common fisheries policy in 1983, the fleet side of the industry collapsed with the loss of about 8,000 jobs. Although there were some decommissioning grants, the men received absolutley nothing. With this enabling Bill, which will create many administrative powers, will there be compensation for the men as well as the owners? That did not happen with the collapse of the distant water fleets in Hull, Grimsby and Fleetwood. The men got nothing at all.

We have employment legislation which enables the Government to provide compensation and redundancy payments, but, over the years, the Government have refused to provide compensation or redundancy payments to fishermen because they regard them as casual workers. That must be absurd. People have worked for the same company for 35 years, but the Government regard them as casual. They have contributed to the same pension schemes, but the Government regard them as casual. One of my constituents was presented with a gold watch for being with the same company for 25 years, yet he is regarded as casual.

The Government have introduced time bars. The Department of Employment misled men and told them, "Do not apply for redundancy; you do not qualify because you are casual." We have established that that was wrong and the Government have accepted it. Men have been paying for their national insurance stamps. They also have a system of signing on and off, which again has created great difficulties for them. We have massive injustice. People want their cases to be heard, and have been trying to get them heard since 1983, but the Government are putting hurdles in their way. Let us have those cases heard.

It is a serious matter. These men are not greedy; they are fighting on a point of principle. They have worked in a most hazardous industry around the banks, Iceland and Norway, in temperatures of minus 30 deg for about 350 days a year, and have made great contributions not only to the food supply but to military intelligence during wars. They are forgotten heroes. The Government have been saying that the only way to deal with those cases is by a series of tribunals. There have been tribunals, but the Government still have not drawn up any guidelines to assess all outstanding cases. We are getting delay, delay and more delay. The system of dispensing justice to the distant water fishermen is failing. The Government are not being fair to these people.

I have no time properly to make my case, but I ask the Under-Secretary to talk to his colleague in the Department of Employment, which is the lead Department in the matter, to see whether there is some way in which under the legislation, which will create several administrative procedures, a linkage can be found to ensure that the fishermen's cases are properly considered. It is wrong that they should be treated in this dreadful way. It would not set any precedents to compensate them. It would not be costly. We are talking about a small number of people.

It is time for action from the Government. I ask the Under-Secretary to have discussions with his counterpart in the Department of Employment on whether some arrangement can be drawn up.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North 9:20 pm, 8th June 1992

We have had a long debate by fishing standards and a full and representative one. One of the pleasures of this season of Parliament is that we have a fair old geographical tour of Britain in the form of maiden speeches. Tonight has been no exception. I pay tribute to the hon. Members for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait), for Ayr (Mr. Gallie) and for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes), who made their maiden speeches this evening.

I checked the background of the hon. Member for Hastings and Rye, who has a Scottish pedigree in her political experience. I noticed from one of the profiles in the Library that normally, according to the Sunday Express, she fairly bubbles with enthusiasm for Tory achievements". I thought that it was perhaps a comment on the legislation before us that we did not see that to the full extent today. However, we heard an enjoyable and informative speech. In fairness to the hon. Lady, I should say that the whole House already owes her a considerable debt. I read from the same profile that she was selected for Hastings and Rye, defeating Peter Bruinvels April '91.

The hon. Member for Ayr is from my neck of the woods. I know him from when he was active in my constituency. He paid a generous tribute to his predecessor, George Younger. I am not sure whether George Younger is in a state of metamorphosis or whether he has already become Lord Younger. We enjoyed the maiden speech of the hon. Member for Ayr. I am sure that he will make a strong contribution not only to Scottish debates but on the wider issues in which he is involved.

The hon. Member for Scarborough gave an extremely entertaining account of his constituency. I am almost tempted to go there, but also to come back. I became slightly worried when he had been going for 10 minutes and had reached only 1267 but the pace of events accelerated after that. I am sure that many hon. Members who participate in fishing debates will remember with affection his predecessor, Sir Michael Shaw, who made succinct contributions to fishing debates but always spoke well on behalf of his fishing interests.

I remember Sir Michael Shaw particularly because the first major parliamentary activity in which I was involved after being elected in 1987 was the English poll tax legislation. Sir Michael Shaw presided over the Standing Committee. It was a good parliamentary Committee in which to cut one's teeth and he presided over it in a fair and good-humoured way. I am sure that everyone here sends him, Lord Younger and Kenneth Warren best wishes for their respective retirements.

I have been surprised at the strength of opposition to the Bill from all quarters of the House today. As I said, we had a representative mixture of speeches. Every part of England has been represented. We heard the authentic voice of South Down and we heard from Scottish interests. Frankly, no one has said—

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

I am sorry. We have also heard speeches from Welsh Opposition Members. However, we have not heard from anyone who was terrifically keen on the legislation. Perhaps that should not have been such a surprise—

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

Yes, I am told that he is terrifically keen, but that has yet to manifest itself. We wait with interest.

Perhaps we should not have been surprised because the editorial in Fishing News on 29 May summed up the feeling of the fishing industry around our coast, saying: Not only is the principle of imposing limits on the days a boat can spend at sea without compensation highly questionable, but so too is the practice. Once these powers are in place"— referring to the Bill— the government will have a management tool which it will be able to enforce at will … Fishermen's abilities to make their boats pay are already severely compromised by the quota system. Many, rather than go out of business, bend the rules. A somewhat rare admission in that industry. Now on top of a quota system which is openly admitted to be a conservation and management failure, fishermen are to have a new constraint which will be 'unbendable'—on top of all the other technical and licensing restrictions. Those are strong words indeed from Fishing News.

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

Perhaps I may quote a different part of the same editorial: There are fishermen who are sympathetic to days at sea limitations provided they are applied in a way which is acceptable. They would help to share out the action between more boats, and would be effective as a conservation tool; perhaps the only truly effective one.

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

I always work on the assumption that no one reads the same editorials that I do, but I am grateful to the Minister for putting a balanced view.

There was genuine surprise in the Chamber as we realised that not only is there to be a limit on days at sea, and all that that principle entails, but it is apparently to be applied on a boat-by-boat basis. From having a word with the Minister outside the Chamber, I know that the system seems to be a hybrid. I do not mean to misrepresent it, but some categories of boat will be taken together and some will be taken separately.

The concerns that have been expressed from all quarters about the sheer bureaucratic entanglements that the Bill will lead to, and the idea of each boat being subject to a separate regime with separate appeals, are fairly frightening.

The explanatory and financial memorandum, in the "Effect of the Bill on Public Sector Manpower", states: Restricting days at sea for some 3,800 vessels over 10 metres in length will require a significant increase in enforcement posts. They can say that again.

I was in the Committee of a major Scottish Bill, the Bankruptcy (Scotland) Bill, today. To their great credit, the Conservatives are nationalising the bankruptcy process in Scotland and creating 400 extra civil service jobs. That is very commendable. The Government seem determined to increase the public sector. I am tempted to combine the two measures. As we understand it, the sheer difficulties of enforcement involved in the Bill are worrying and they will have to be debated and explained further.

No one likes the idea of attaching a days-at-sea stipulation to a decommissioning scheme and making it a trade-off of one against the other, but if it is to exist and to command respect there must be minimum criteria of comprehensibility, non-bureaucracy, so far as that is possible, and even-handedness. From what we have heard today, it is far from clear whether any of those criteria will apply.

I am strongly attracted to the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), who called into question the effectiveness of the quota and tie-up regime. None of the artificial measures, which seem constantly to be piled one upon another, come up with a solution, the problem being that there is too much catching power in the industry. We shall not have time tonight, but we ought to examine the issue in a more fundamental way.

Photo of Dr Mo Mowlam Dr Mo Mowlam , Redcar

My hon. Friend will realise that the enforcement of the days-at-sea rule is of particular concern to ports such as that in my constituency[Interruption.] The Minister of State may giggle, but the boats in Redcar are as important as those in bigger ports—and people depend on them for work. There is concern about how the appeal procedure will work in the case of just a few boats affected by particular weather and beach-launching conditions. Will my hon. Friend urge the Minister to examine that aspect?

Photo of Mr Brian Wilson Mr Brian Wilson , Cunninghame North

I strongly agree with my hon. Friend's point, which is germane to my next argument. My slight knowledge of the industry centres far more on the smaller and weaker ports than on the great capital-intensive centres. That is the reason for my concern about the proposal that producers' organisations should engage in the purchase of TAC records. That is disturbingly similar to the proposals for individual transferable quotas, which the industry largely opposes—as did the Government, previously.

Quotas will be sold only within the producer organisations and can then be added to the existing quotas of other vessels. If they are lost to a port because fishermen are looking for a financial escape hatch out of the industry, that will be to the disadvantage of smaller fishing communities. Fishing effort would not, however, be reduced—because such quotas would be transferred to larger and stronger ports. Many owners are only too willing to enhance their quotas by purchasing additions through their producer organisation.

That happened before, when pressure stock licences from the weaker ports ended up in the larger ports. Some fishing communities may have 20 or 30 vessels working out of them. If, by some device, two or three of those rights to fish are lost, that means a loss of 10 per cent. of that local industry and its jobs, and of the viability of the on-shore jobs which depend on them. I deplore any system based on financial incentives to transfer parts of the existing industry from small fishing communities to the largest and most powerful communities.

The one-net rule is another adjunct of the Bill. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) referred to the need to have a Queen's counsel on board to enable fishermen to keep abreast of the remarkably complex laws that they must observe. Perhaps that is a job for the hon. and learned Member for Fife, North-East (Mr. Campbell), who could don his wellies on his day off and charge his usual fees.

One must consider also the effect of the one-net rule on by-catches, and the breakdown into target species, quota species, and non-quota species. There will be a percentage of each fixed, and a vessel would not be permitted to catch too much of one species or too little of another. It might help to have a mathematician on board as well as a QC.

It is impossible for any industry to operate under such detailed conditions. When the Scottish Fishermen's Federation responded to the one-net proposal, it made it clear to the Government that the only basis on which its membership would comtemplate acceptance was as the forerunner to the introduction of a Community-wide one-net rule promoted by the British Government. What are the Government doing in that regard?

The federation also argued that the by-catch rules governing the use of a 70 mm net in prawn fisheries, which currently allow 60 per cent. of the total catch to be taken as protected species, should be relaxed, so that haddock and whiting would be counted against that limit, and all other protected species excluded.

In that context, we have heard of the problems of the Western Isles fishermen, which also apply to other similar fishing communities. Those fishermen are in a special position. In order to carry on their traditional livelihood, their boats have worked for prawns and white fish. For 30 years, prawns have been the mainstay of the Scottish west coast fisheries, but the white fish fishery has also been important. The fishermen go to sea in boats carrying nets for both types of fishing and they prosecute both fisheries. They cannot return to port and exchange those nets at the drop of a hat as the Bill would compel them to do. They operate a conservation-conscious fishery, so why, in heaven's name, is the might of the Government and the European Commission directed against that type of operation? That is beyond my wit, and I have enough respect for the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to believe that it is beyond his comprehension as well.

I noticed that when my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald) was speaking the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was in his place and I think that he was taking some notes on possible derogations. A sledgehammer must not be used to crack a nut in order to enforce the generality of the Bill. It is ridiculous that people who are doing no harm whatever in conservation terms should also be caught up by the Bill.

In his opening remarks, the Minister referred to the Bill as being a form of subsidiarity. I believe in real subsidiarity. As I understand it, the point of it is to take decision-making down to the lowest convenient level. That is a great idea. Why do the Government not go for regional management of fishing stocks? As we have heard from Conservative Members, we have many different fisheries round the coasts of Britain. There is no such thing as a British or Scottish fishing industry—these are generic terms. Different areas have different interests and different types of fishery. There is a need for fisheries to be managed at a local level and for sensible exemptions and sensible measures to be introduced, including, for example the sensible protection of the fisheries in the south-west against incursions from outside fleets. Let us have a system of regional fishery management because we would then have a more sensitive and intelligent approach to the management of fisheries.

I want to raise two specific points. The first has already been raised, but I must press the Minister for a more straightforward account of what transpired at Stornoway sheriff court last week. If no appeal is intended, the matter cannot be sub judice. Will the Minister recognise that it is a matter of widespread interest? Will he put aside the slight coyness that he revealed earlier and tell us in non-recriminatory and simple terms whether something went wrong and what the implications will be? It has been pointed out that there was a similar judgment to last week's in 1983, so it is reasonable to ask whether anything has been done since 1983 or whether the 1983 judgment was also wrong and irrelevant. I hope that the Minister will help the House, and particularly my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles, on that.

The second point refers to the well-known fact that the Panamanian registered and unlicensed Spanish-crewed vessel which was caught off Rockall with 60 tonnes of monkfish on board was carrying monofilament nets. Obviously, that vessel found a profitable fishery and thought it worth while to be there along with several other Panamanian registered, Spanish-owned vessels. The absurdity is that if a small fishing boat sets out from a Scottish port—or, I assume, a port in England—with a monofilament net on board, the carriage of such a net would in itself be an offence. Everyone on the west coast recognises that there is a promising fishery for monkfish, but it cannot be prosecuted by our own fishermen. The matter is taken to the point of absurdity because, while those vast vessels are fishing for monkfish off Rockall with monofilament nets and are apparently within the law, a fisherman in the port of Mallaig, Nigel Johnston, is being deprived of a livelihood because he was carrying relatively small monofilament nets to prosecute the cray fishery, which is a much smaller but also perfectly reasonable way for people to earn a living. He is caught up in that mass of red tape.

Will the Minister clarify the Panamanian-Spanish case last week and, given the absurdity that I have highlighted, look again at the question of monofilament nets? It is nonsense and is caught up in the Scottish Office's paranoia that anyone carrying monofilament nets must be fishing for salmon.

Both sides of the House have expressed a high degree of dissatisfaction with the Bill. We do not believe that tabling milk-and-water amendments is the way to deal with it. We shall vote against it tonight, and we invite other parties and all dissenters in the Conservative party to vote with us.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries 9:41 pm, 8th June 1992

I am disappointed that the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North (Mr. Wilson) intends, in effect, to vote against conservation. That is a sad thing to do tonight.

May I join many other hon. Members on both sides of the House in warmly congratulating the three maiden speakers: my hon. Friends the Members for Hastings and Rye (Mrs. Lait), for Scarborough (Mr. Sykes), and for Ayr (Mr. Gallie). My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye seems to have most of the important battlefields of England in her constituency and I hope that she does not intend to translate that into the world of fishing. It was delightful to hear what she had to say about her lovely constituency. My hon. Friend the Member for Scarborough made as racey a speech as we would have expected from his predecessor. We are glad to have him participating in debates on fishing. My hon. Friend the Member for Ayr had one of the most remarkable victories of the general election. I warmly support his great efforts in retaining the seat that was so ably represented by George Younger for many years. I cross friendly swords with him over his monopoly of Robert Burns, because my constituency of Dumfries looks after at least the better half. It was good to have him joining in a fishing debate so early in his parliamentary life, particularly because he was constructive over the prawn fishing issue, which is the first of the many points to which I wish to respond.

Prawn fishing is important because prawn conservation, or nephrops conservation, is as important as the conservation of white fish. That is why I have asked the Sea Fish Industry Authority to convene another nephrops forum to decide the right way forward. As hon. Members know, we considered banning nephrops fishing at weekends, but that might have had a catastrophic impact on the processing industry, and I wanted to be clear that we were going in the right direction before imposing such a ban.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

I note the enthusiasm with which the Minister greets this first intervention.

The House will probably agree that such a nephrops forum is a good idea and I am sure that the Minister is about to tell us that, pending the decision of such a forum, there will at least be a suspension of unilateral action on the one-net rule. Surely the Minister would not act before listening to the interesting and informative discussion at that forum.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

The hon. Gentleman anticipates much good stuff to follow. I will wait until the one-net rule is in place before saying what is happening.

I was talking about the prawn issue, which was raised by the hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Macdonald). I wish to reply to the points raised both by him and by the hon. Member for Cunninghame, North about the recent court case—a subject on which I intervened briefly earlier. I wish to make it absolutely clear that there is no loophole in the legislation. The case failed on technical grounds which is why we are not appealing against the judgment. We are perfectly confident that, were there to be a further breach by a Panamanian or other foreign vessel, we would have sufficient powers to take action. I hope that if we have to do so and there is sufficient evidence, we shall win the court case.

Photo of Mr Calum MacDonald Mr Calum MacDonald , Na h-Eileanan an Iar

I am not entirely clear on what the Minister said about the case having failed on technicalities. If the same technical reasons caused the case to fail in 1983, why was that not made clear so that another case of the same sort was not instigated?

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

One has to accept that there was a lack of continuity of information. I am sorry that the case proceeded as it did, and I am now stating clearly that in future we shall have the necessary powers. Fishermen in Western Isles and elsewhere can be confident that we will be successful in any future prosecutions.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

I have only 14 minutes left and I have made it absolutely clear, even to a Queen's counsel, what the position is—

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

That is the worst sort.

I was flattered to hear so many quotes from my previous speeches. An important theme in the speeches of those disinclined to support conservation measures was to ask why the United Kingdom should be hit when the rest of the Community was not. We must accept that we have by far the largest share of fishing effort in the Community, so we must be in the forefront of conservation. Our partners are active; many of them are carrying out the same measures as we are and some are a great deal nearer their multi-annual guidance programme targets than we are. I know that that subject will be discussed in Luxembourg tomorrow.

The Community has given all its members clear advice that they must have tough conservation measures in the coming three or four years and monitor how they develop. We must have a combination of measures, and we are pressing all our partners to be as strict as we are—Commissioner Marin is currently being forceful on that issue. It is right that we should take those measures seriously, and employ observers. That is why so many aircraft and ships are carrying out surveillance. That is the only way that we can fully implement the policies that we have outlined.

As my hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Trotter) knows, the aircraft of both the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland are run by commercial companies. However, we are considering all alternative methods of running our ships and no decision has been taken—I can give that firm commitment.

My hon. Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) was very concerned about discrimination against United Kingdom fishermen. Effort reduction will be a major contribution to meeting the MAGP target, which we must negotiate with the Commission later this year. All other member states will also have to meet their targets by taking action, but they may opt for different measures.

Photo of Elliot Morley Elliot Morley , Glanford and Scunthorpe

Was not the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Harris) making a point made by many other hon. Members who have spoken today? Many ports, such as Whitehaven and Maryport, have fleets that are being tied up in port. They are already stretched to the limit, because other member states have met their targets by means of proper decommissioning and, although we have the same opportunity, the Government refuse to take advantage of the 70 per cent. finance offered by the EC.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

The hon. Gentleman's figures are wrong. Comparatively few fleets are tied up at any one time. The 135-day limit, which was set only after the most careful consultations with our scientists, is for conservation reasons.

I wish that all hon. Members would accept that the Government do not want the regulations and bureaucracy that some have described. I know that my right hon. Friends the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, would confirm that our wish and duty is to help the fishing industry in every possible way. We want the industry to be profitable, so that the housewife can benefit from the best possible service. We certainly do not want to persecute the fishing industry, as some hon. Members seem to believe.

Photo of Mr Roger Moate Mr Roger Moate , Faversham

It is reassuring to hear my hon. Friend repeat that the Government have no wish to pursue unnecessary regulation. Does he accept, however, that a slight contradiction is involved? The Bill gives the Government power to impose the days-at-sea regulations on the under-10 m fleet, but my hon. Friend the Minister of State said earlier that they did not intend to do so. Meanwhile, Ministry officials are giving the impression that it is inevitable for such controls to apply to the under-10 m fleet. Will my hon. Friend at least give us an assurance that he will be open-minded in Committee about amendments clarifying the matter? I gladly volunteer to serve on the Standing Committee.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

That is duty.

I agree that we must be clear about the under-10 m fleet. Some hon. Members, including my hon. Friend the Member for Castle Point (Dr. Spink), seem to have been misinformed. There is no restriction on those ships; the only difference between them and the rest of the fleet is the fact that they are not eligible for decommissioning. They can go to sea when they like, regardless of the weather.

Hon. Members on both sides of the House expressed great concern about bad weather and the 135-day restriction. When we deal with that, and with licensing, we shall consider carefully track records and days at sea, including the days that ships have spent steaming from market ports to home ports in 1991. If they have been caught out a number of times, or have been carrying out repairs, that will be taken into account. We are being as flexible as we can be.

The hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Wallace) and for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) raised the issue of the one-net rule. That demonstrates the advantages of consultation. We shall consider carefully all the issues that have been raised by those fishermen who will be affected by the one-net rule and see what steps can be taken to remove their concern. At the beginning of the debate my hon. Friend the Minister said that we shall have to bear in mind that that is a European Community regulation.

The hon. Member for Cunninghame, North asked when we were going to deal with the issue. The answer is, tomorrow. We shall consider many of these issues tomorrow in Luxembourg.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland asked me about the Shetland box. Bearing in mind the difficulties that we previously encountered over obtaining the Shetland box, we are anxious to retain the present position. We do not intend to allow any change to the box to be made during our European Community consultations.

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond Leader, Scottish National Party

The Minister has apparently made a concession on the one-net rule, but will he confirm that while a change in the by-catch arrangement is a matter for the Community, the unilateral imposition of the one-net rule, which has already happened, is purely a matter for him? The Minister ought to announce a delay in the imposition of the one-net rule this evening.

Photo of Mr Hector Monro Mr Hector Monro , Dumfries

I have not made any concession. What I said was that I am considering the matter, bearing in mind the very great discussions that we have had during the last week or two with the fishermen and the fact that we shall be in Luxembourg tomorrow when there will be an opportunity to discuss the matter further.

I want to make it quite clear to the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland that we feel that the Shetland issue is very important and that it is important to meet the Shetlanders to discuss their fishing industry with them.

The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor) asked about the increase in maximum fines in clause 3. The increase is from £5,000 to £50,000. Perhaps that is small beer to him, but it is very important to us.

The hon. Member for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell) asked a number of questions, in particular why we are not introducing more technical measures. We have already made it clear that nearly all the measures that will be taken as a result of the Bill, as well as all the announcements that we have made this year, are technical measures. That is why it is difficult to understand what the hon. Gentleman has in mind. We have gone beyond the Community package, as announced on 12 May, by introducing additional measures on a national basis. They are all intended to help to conserve fish stocks. Until stocks of white fish increase, we need to continue with what seems to be a very tough line. However, it is in the interests of fishermen. These measures will help them in the long run.

There is an urgent need to tackle the pressing problems that threaten the fishing industry. To reduce fishing effort is crucial to the long-term interests of our fishermen, as well as to fish stocks. Decisive and early action is required. That is what we are delivering. Our package is a careful combination of payments to the industry and encouragement to voluntary action and regulation. The Government are making a very substantial and clear commitment. That is highlighted by the decommissioning scheme, about which I have not had sufficient time to talk this evening. [Interruption.] It is a very important issue. The fact that the sum of £25 million is derided by the Opposition shows that they do not live in the real world when it comes to finance. The industry is being asked to play its part. Together with the implementation of this package, I believe that we have the means to secure real conservation benefits in the long-term interests of the United Kingdom fishing industry. I commend the Bill to the House.

Question put, That the amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 22, Noes 218.

Division No. 22][9.59 pm
AYES
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyMcGrady, Eddie
Beith, A. J.Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)Salmond, Alex
Cryer, BobSkinner, Dennis
Ewing, Mrs MargaretSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Godman, Dr Norman A.Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Harvey, NickTyler, Paul
Home Robertson, JohnWallace, James
Johnston, Sir Russell
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Tellers for the Ayes:
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S)Mr. Archy Kirkwood and
Lynne, Ms LizMr. Dafydd Wigley.
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Coe, Sebastian
Amess, DavidColvin, Michael
Ancram, MichaelCongdon, David
Arbuthnot, JamesCoombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Coombs, Simon (Swindon)
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Cope, Rt Hon Sir John
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Couchman, James
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Cran, James
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Davies, Quentin (Stamford)
Batiste, SpencerDavis, David (Boothferry)
Beresford, Sir PaulDay, Stephen
Booth, HartleyDeva, Niranjan
Boswell, TimDevlin, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Dickens, Geoffrey
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaDorrell, Stephen
Bowis, JohnDouglas-Hamilton, Lord James
Brandreth, GylesDover, Den
Brazier, JulianDuncan, Alan
Bright, GrahamDunn, Bob
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterDykes, Hugh
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Eggar, Tim
Browning, Mrs. AngelaElletson, Harold
Burns, SimonEmery, Sir Peter
Burt, AlistairEvans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)
Butler, PeterEvans, Jonathan (Brecon)
Butterfill, JohnEvans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Evans, Roger (Monmouth)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Faber, David
Carrington, MatthewFabricant, Michael
Carttiss, MichaelFairbairn, Sir Nicholas
Cash, WilliamFenner, Dame Peggy
Channon, Rt Hon PaulFishburn, John Dudley
Chaplin, Mrs JudithForsyth, Michael (Stirling)
Chapman, SydneyForth, Eric
Clappison, JamesFox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)
Freeman, RogerPage, Richard
French, DouglasPaice, James
Fry, PeterPatnick, Irvine
Gallie, PhilipPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Gardiner, Sir GeorgePeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Gillan, Ms CherylPickles, Eric
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesPorter, David (Waveney)
Gorst, JohnPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Powell, William (Corby)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Richards, Rod
Grylls, Sir MichaelRiddick, Graham
Gummer, Rt Hon John SelwynRobathan, Andrew
Hague, WilliamRoberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Hamilton, Rt Hon ArchieRobertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Robinson, Mark (Somerton)
Hampson, Dr KeithRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Hargreaves, AndrewRyder, Rt Hon Richard
Harris, DavidSackville, Tom
Haselhurst, AlanScott, Rt Hon Nicholas
Hawkins, NicholasShaw, David (Dover)
Hawksley, WarrenShaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Hayes, JerryShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Heald, OliverShersby, Michael
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidSims, Roger
Hendry, CharlesSkeet, Sir Trevor
Hill, James (Southampton Test)Soames, Nicholas
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)Speed, Keith
Horam, JohnSpencer, Sir Derek
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk)Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hughes Robert G. (Harrow W)Spink, Dr Robert
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Spring, Richard
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Sproat, Iain
Hunter, AndrewSquire, Robin (Hornchurch)
Jenkin, BernardStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Jessel, TobyStephen, Michael
Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)Stewart, Allan
Kellett-Bowman, Dame ElaineStreeter, Gary
Kilfedder, JamesSumberg, David
Kirkhope, TimothySweeney, Walter
Knapman, RogerSykes, John
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Taylor, Rt Hon D. (Strangford)
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Thomason, Roy
Lait, Ms JacquiThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Lang, Rt Hon IanThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Lawrence, IvanThurnham, Peter
Legg, BarryTownend, John (Bridlington)
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Trend, Michael
Lidington, DavidTrimble, David
Lilley, Rt Hon PeterTrotter, Neville
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Twinn, Dr Ian
Luff, PeterVaughan, Sir Gerard
MacKay, AndrewViggers, Peter
Maitland, Lady OlgaWalden, George
Malone, GeraldWaller, Gary
Mans, KeithWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Watts, John
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Wells, Bowen
Mawhinney, Dr BrianWheeler, Sir John
Merchant, PiersWhittingdale, John
Milligan, StephenWiddecombe, Ann
Mitchell, Andrew (Gedling)Willetts, David
Moate, RogerWilshire, David
Monro, Sir HectorWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Moss, MalcolmWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Neubert, Sir MichaelWood, Timothy
Newton, Rt Hon TonyYeo, Tim
Nicholls, PatrickYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)Tellers for the Noes:
Oppenheim, PhillipMr. David Lightbown and
Ottaway, RichardMr. Nicholas Baker.

Question accordingly negatived.

Main Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 60 (Amendment on second or third reading:

The House divided: Ayes 216, Noes 187.

Division No. 23][10.12 pm
AYES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Freeman, Roger
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)French, Douglas
Amess, DavidFry, Peter
Ancram, MichaelGallie, Phil
Arbuthnot, JamesGardiner, Sir George
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Gillan, Ms Cheryl
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Gorst, John
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Greenway, John (Ryedale)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth)
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Grylls, Sir Michael
Banks, Robert (Harrogate)Gummer, Rt Hon John Selwyn
Batiste, SpencerHague, William
Bellingham, HenryHamilton, Rt Hon Archie
Beresford, Sir PaulHamilton, Neil (Tatton)
Booth, HartleyHampson, Dr Keith
Boswell, TimHargreaves, Andrew
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Haselhurst, Alan
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaHawkins, Nick
Bowis, JohnHawksley, Warren
Brandreth, GylesHayes, Jerry
Brazier, JulianHeald, Oliver
Bright, GrahamHeathcoat-Amory, David
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterHendry, Charles
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Hill, James (Southampton Test)
Browning, Mrs. AngelaHogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)
Burns, SimonHoram, John
Burt, AlistairHowell, Ralph (North Norfolk)
Butler, PeterHughes, Robert G. (Harrow W)
Butterfill, JohnHunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)
Carlisle, John (Luton North)Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)
Carlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)Hunter, Andrew
Carrington, MatthewJenkin, Bernard
Carttiss, MichaelJessel, Toby
Cash, WilliamJones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)
Channon, Rt Hon PaulKellett-Bowman, Dame Elaine
Chaplin, Mrs JudithKilfedder, James
Chapman, SydneyKirkhope, Timothy
Clappison, JamesKnapman, Roger
Clarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)
Clifton-Brown, GeoffreyKnight, Greg (Derby N)
Coe, SebastianKnight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)
Colvin, MichaelKynoch, George (Kincardine)
Congdon, DavidLait, Ms Jacqui
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)Lang, Rt Hon Ian
Coombs, Simon (Swindon)Lawrence, Ivan
Cope, Rt Hon Sir JohnLegg, Barry
Couchman, JamesLester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Cran, JamesLidington, David
Curry, David (Skipton & Ripon)Lightbown, David
Davies, Quentin (Stamford)Lilley, Rt Hon Peter
Day, StephenLloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Deva, Nirj JosephLuff, Peter
Devlin, TimMacKay, Andrew
Dickens, GeoffreyMaitland, Lady Olga
Dorrell, StephenMalone, Gerald
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMans, Keith
Dover, DenMarshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)
Duncan, AlanMartin, David (Portsmouth S)
Dunn, BobMawhinney, Dr Brian
Dykes, HughMerchant, Piers
Eggar, TimMilligan, Stephen
Elletson, HaroldMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Emery, Sir PeterMoate, Roger
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Monro, Sir Hector
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Moss, Malcolm
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Neubert, Sir Michael
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Newton, Rt Hon Tony
Faber, DavidNicholls, Patrick
Fabricant, MichaelNicholson, David (Taunton)
Fairbairn, Sir NicholasNicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Fenner, Dame PeggyNorris, Steve
Fishburn, John DudleyOppenheim, Phillip
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Ottaway, Richard
Forth, EricPage, Richard
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Paice, James
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)Patnick, Irvine
Pattie, Rt Hon Sir GeoffreySumberg, David
Peacock, Mrs ElizabethSweeney, Walter
Pickles, EricSykes, John
Portillo, Rt Hon MichaelTaylor, Ian (Esher)
Powell, William (Corby)Taylor, John M. (Solihull)
Richards, RodThomason, Roy
Riddick, GrahamThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Robathan, AndrewThompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Roberts, Rt Hon Sir WynThurnham, Peter
Robertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)Townend, John (Bridlington)
Robinson, Mark(Somerton)Trend, Michael
Rowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)Trotter, Neville
Ryder, Rt Hon RichardTwinn, Dr Ian
Sackville, TomVaughan, Sir Gerard
Scott, Rt Hon NicholasViggers, Peter
Shaw, David (Dover)Walden, George
Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)Waller, Gary
Shepherd, Colin (Hereford)Wardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Shersby, MichaelWatts, John
Sims, RogerWells, Bowen
Skeet, Sir TrevorWheeler, Sir John
Soames, NicholasWhittingdale, John
Speed, KeithWiddecombe, Ann
Spencer, Sir DerekWilletts, David
Spicer, Michael (S Worcs)Wilshire, David
Spink, Dr RobertWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Spring, RichardWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Sproat, IainYeo Tim
Squire, Robin (Hornchurch)Young Sir George (Acton)
Stanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Stephen, MichaelTellers for the Ayes:
Stewart, AllanMr. Timothy Wood and
Streeter, GaryMr. David Davies.
NOES
Adams, Mrs IreneCunningham, Jim (Covy SE)
Ainger, NicholasCunningham, Dr John (C'p'l'nd)
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)Darling, Alistair
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyDavies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)
Ashton, JoeDenham, John
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Dewar, Donald
Barnes, HarryDixon, Don
Battle, JohnDobson, Frank
Bayley, HughDowd, Jim
Beckett, MargaretDunnachie, Jimmy
Beith, A. J.Dunwoody, Mrs Gwyneth
Benn, Rt Hon TonyEagle, Ms Angela
Bennett, Andrew F.Eastham, Ken
Benton, JoeEnright, Derek
Bermingham, GeraldEtherington, William
Berry, RogerEvans, John (St Helens N)
Betts, CliveEwing, Mrs Margaret
Blunkett, DavidFatchett, Derek
Boateng, PaulField, Frank (Birkenhead)
Boyce, JimmyFlynn, Paul
Boyes, RolandFoster, Derek (B'p Auckland)
Bradley, KeithFoulkes, George
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)Fraser, John
Byers, StephenFyfe, Maria
Caborn, RichardGeorge, Bruce
Callaghan, JimGodman, Dr Norman A.
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)Godsiff, Roger
Campbell, Ronald (Blyth V)Gordon, Mildred
Campbell-Savours, D. N.Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Cann, JamesGrocott, Bruce
Carlile, Alexander (Montgomry)Gunnell, John
Chisholm, MalcolmHall, Mike
Clapham, MichaelHanson, David
Clark, Dr David (South Shields)Hardy, Peter
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)Harris, David
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)Harvey, Nick
Coffey, Ms AnnHeppell, John
Connarty, MichaelHicks, Robert
Cook, Frank (Stockton N)Hill, Keith (Streatham)
Corston, Ms JeanHome Robertson, John
Cousins, JimHood, Jimmy
Cox, TomHoon, Geoff
Cryer, BobHoyle, Doug
Cummings, JohnHughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Cunliffe, LawrenceHughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)O'Hara, Edward
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)O'Neill, Martin
Hutton, JohnPatchett, Terry
Ingram, AdamPendry, Tom
Jackson, Ms Glenda (H'stead)Pickthall, Colin
Jackson, Ms Helen (Shef'ld, H)Pike, Peter L.
Jamieson, DavidPope, Greg
Johnston, Sir RussellPorter, David (Waveney)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Jones, Jon Owen (Cardiff C)Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Prescott, John
Jowell, Ms TessaPrimarolo, Dawn
Kaufman, Rt Hon GeraldPurchase, Ken
Keen, AlanRandall, Stuart
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S)Redmond, Martin
Kennedy, Ms Jane (L'p'l Br'g'n)Reid, Dr John
Khabra, PiaraRobertson, George (Hamilton)
Kilfoyle, PeterRoche, Ms Barbara
Kirkwood, ArchyRogers, Allan
Leighton, RonRoss, Ernie (Dundee W)
Lestor, Joan (Eccles)Salmond, Alex
Lewis, TerryShort, Clare
Litherland, RobertSimpson, Alan
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Skinner, Dennis
Lynne, Ms LizSmith, C. (Isl'ton S & F'sbury)
McCartney, IanSmith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
MacDonald, CalumSpearing, Nigel
McFall, JohnSquire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
McGrady, EddieSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
McKelvey, WilliamStevenson, George
Mackinlay, AndrewStrang, Dr. Gavin
McLeish, HenryTaylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
McMaster, GordonTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Madden, MaxThompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Mahon, AliceTipping, Paddy
Mandelson, PeterTurner, Dennis
Marek, Dr JohnTyler, Paul
Martin, Michael J. (Springburn)Wallace, James
Martlew, EricWareing, Robert N
Maxton, JohnWatson, Mike
Meale, AlanWicks, Malcolm
Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)Wigley, Dafydd
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)Wilson, Brian
Milburn, AlanWinnick, David
Mitchell, Austin (Gt Grimsby)Wise, Audrey
Morgan, Rhodri
Morley, ElliotTellers for the Noes:
Mowlam, MarjorieMr. Eric Illsley and
Mudie, GeorgeMrs. Llin Golding.
O'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Bill read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills), That the Bill be committed to a Special Standing Committee.—[Mr. Wallace.]

The House divided: Ayes 130, Noes 208.

Division Number 24][10.255 pm
AYES
Adams, Mrs IreneByers, Stephen
Ainger, NicholasCaborn, Richard
Ashdown, Rt Hon PaddyCallaghan, Jim
Banks, Tony (Newham NW)Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)
Barnes, HarryCampbell-Savours, D. N.
Battle, JohnCann, James
Bayley, HughCarlile, Alexander (Montgomry)
Beckett, MargaretChisholm, Malcolm
Beith, A. J.Clapham, Michael
Benn, Rt Hon TonyClark, Dr David (South Shields)
Betts, CliveClarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Blunkett, DavidClarke, Tom (Monklands W)
Boateng, PaulCoffey, Ms Ann
Boyce, JimmyConnarty, Michael
Boyes, RolandCousins, Jim
Bradley, KeithCox, Tom
Brown, Gordon (Dunfermline E)Cryer, Bob
Darling, AlistairMahon, Alice
Davies, Bryan (Oldham C'tral)Marek, Dr John
Dewar, DonaldMartin, Michael J. (Springburn)
Dixon, DonMartlew, Eric
Dowd, JimMaxton, John
Dunnachie, JimmyMeale, Alan
Eastham, KenMichie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Enright, DerekMichie, Mrs Ray (Argyll Bute)
Ewing, Mrs MargaretMorgan, Rhodri
Foster, Derek (B'p Auckland)Morley, Elliot
Foulkes, GeorgeMudie, George
Fyfe, MariaO'Brien, Michael (N W'kshire)
George, BruceO'Hara, Edward
Godman, Dr Norman A.O'Neill, Martin
Golding, Mrs LlinPatchett, Terry
Gordon, MildredPendry, Tom
Gunnell, JohnPickthall, Colin
Hanson, DavidPike, Peter L.
Hardy, PeterPowell, Ray (Ogmore)
Harvey, NickPrentice, Ms Bridget (Lew'm E)
Hepple, JohnPrentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Hill, Keith (Streatham)Prescott, John
Home Robertson, JohnPrimarolo, Dawn
Hood, JimmyPurchase, Ken
Hoyle, DougRandall, Stuart
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)Robertson, George (Hamilton)
Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen N)Roche, Ms Barbara
Hughes, Roy (Newport E)Rogers, Allan
Hughes, Simon (Southwark)Salmond, Alex
Hume, JohnSkinner, Dennis
Hutton, JohnSpearing, Nigel
Illsley, EricSquire, Rachel (Dunfermline W)
Ingram, AdamSteel, Rt Hon Sir David
Jackson, Ms Helen (Shef'ld, H)Taylor, Mrs Ann (Dewsbury)
Jamieson, DavidTaylor, Rt Hon D. (Strangford)
Johnston, Sir RussellTaylor, Matthew (Truro)
Jones, Barry (Alyn and D'side)Thompson, Jack (Wansbeck)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd, SW)Tipping, paddy
Jones, Nigel (Cheltenham)Turner, Dennis
Jowell, Ms TessaTyler, Paul
Kennedy, Charles (Ross, C & S)Wareing, Robert N
Khabra, PiaraWatson, Mike
Leighton, RonWigley, Dafydd
Lewis, TerryWilson, Brian
Litherland, RobertWinnick, David
Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)Wise, Audrey
Lynne, Ms Liz
McCartney, IanTellers for the Ayes:
MacDonald, CalumMr. Archy Kirkwood and
Mackinlay, AndrewMr. James Wallace
McMaster, Gordon
NOES
Ainsworth, Peter (East Surrey)Butler, Peter
Alison, Rt Hon Michael (Selby)Butterfill, John
Amess, DavidCarlisle, John (Luton North)
Ancram, MichaelCarlisle, Kenneth (Lincoln)
Arbuthnot, JamesCarrington, Matthew
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham)Cartiss, Michael
Arnold, Sir Thomas (Hazel Grv)Cash, William
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)Channon, Rt Hon Paul
Baker, Rt Hon K. (Mole Valley)Chaplin, Mrs Judith
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset North)Chapman, Sydney
Banks, Matthew (Southport)Clappison, James
Batiste, SpencerClarke, Rt Hon Kenneth (Ruclif)
Bellingham, HenryClifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Beresford, Sir PaulCoe, Sebastian
Booth, HartleyColvin, Michael
Boswell, TimCongdon, David
Bottomley, Peter (Eltham)Coombs, Anthony (Wyre For'st)
Bottomley, Rt Hon VirginiaCoombs, Simon (Swindon)
Bowis, JohnCope, Rt Hon Sir John
Brandreth, GylesCouchman, James
Brazier, JulianCran, James
Bright, GrahamCurry, David (Skipton & Ripon)
Brooke, Rt Hon PeterDavies, Quentin (Stamford)
Brown, M. (Brigg & Cl'thorpes)Davis, David (Boothferry)
Browning, Mrs. AngelaDay, Stephen
Burns, SimonDeva, Nirj Joseph
Burt, AlistairDevlin, Tim
Dickens, GeoffreyMerchant, Piers
Dorrell, StephenMilligan, Stephen
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord JamesMitchell, Andrew (Gedling)
Dover, DenMoate, Roger
Duncan, AlanMonro, Sir Hector
Dunn, BobMoss, Malcolm
Dykes, HughNeubert, Sir Michael
Eggar, TimNewton, Rt Hon Tony
Elletson, HaroldNicholls, Patrick
Emery, Sir PeterNicholson, David (Taunton)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatfield)Nicholson, Emma (Devon West)
Evans, Jonathan (Brecon)Norris, Steve
Evans, Nigel (Ribble Valley)Ottaway, Richard
Evans, Roger (Monmouth)Page, Richard
Faber, DavidPaice, James
Fabricant, MichaelPatnick, Irvine
Fairbairn, Sir NicholasPattie, Rt Hon Sir Geoffrey
Fenner, Dame PeggyPeacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Fishburn, John DudleyPickles, Eric
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling)Porter, David (Waveney)
Forth, EricPortillo, Rt Hon Michael
Fox, Dr Liam (Woodspring)Powell, William (Corby)
Fox, Sir Marcus (Shipley)Richards, Rod
Freeman, RogerRiddick, Graham
French, DouglasRobinson, Mark (Somerton)
Fry, PeterRobathan, Andrew
Gallie, PhilipRobertson, Raymond (Ab'd'n S)
Gardiner, Sir GeorgeRoberts, Rt Hon Sir Wyn
Gillan, Ms CherylRowe, Andrew (Mid Kent)
Goodson-Wickes, Dr CharlesRyder, Rt Hon Richard
Gorst, JohnSackville, Tom
Greenway, John (Ryedale)Shaw, David (Dover)
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth, N)Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Grylls, Sir MichaelShepherd, Colin (Hereford)
Hague, WilliamShersby, Michael
Hamilton, Rt Hon ArchieSims, Roger
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton)Skeet, Sir Trevor
Hampson, Dr KeithSoames, Nicholas
Hargreaves, AndrewSpeed, Keith
Harris, DavidSpencer, Sir Derek
Haselhurst, AlanSpicer, Michael (S Worcs)
Hawkins, NicholasSpink, Dr Robert
Hawksley, WarrenSpring, Richard
Hayes, JerrySproat, Iain
Heald, OliverStanley, Rt Hon Sir John
Heathcoat-Amory, DavidStephen, Michael
Hendry, CharlesStewart, Allan
Hill, James (Southampton Test)Streeter, Gary
Hogg, Rt Hon Douglas (G'tham)Sumberg, David
Horam, JohnSweeney, Walter
Hunt, Rt Hon David (Wirral W)Sykes, John
Hunt, Sir John (Ravensbourne)Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Hunter, AndrewTaylor, John M. (Solihull)
Jenkin, BernardThomason, Roy
Jessel, TobyThompson, Sir Donald (C'er V)
Jones, Robert B. (W H'f'rdshire)Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Kilfedder, JamesThurnham, Peter
Kirkhope, TimothyTownend, John (Bridlington)
Knapman, RogerTrend, Michael
Knight, Mrs Angela (Erewash)Trotter, Neville
Knight, Greg (Derby N)Twinn, Dr Ian
Knight, Dame Jill (Bir'm E'st'n)Viggers, Peter
Kynoch, George (Kincardine)Walden, George
Lait, Mrs JacquiWaller, Gary
Lang, Rt Hon IanWardle, Charles (Bexhill)
Lawrence, IvanWatts, John
Legg, BarryWells, Bowen
Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)Wheeler, Sir John
Lidington, DavidWhittingdale, John
Lightbown, DavidWiddecombe, Ann
Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)Willetts, David
Luff, PeterWinterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
MacKay, AndrewWinterton, Nicholas (Macc'f'ld)
Maitland, Lady OlgaYeo, Tim
Malone, GeraldYoung, Sir George (Acton)
Mans, Keith
Marshall, Sir Michael (Arundel)Tellers for the Noes:
Martin, David (Portsmouth S)Mr. Timothy Wood and
Mawhinney, Dr BrianMr. Robert G. Hughes.

Question accordingly negatived.

Bill committed to a Standing Committee, pursuant to Standing Order No. 61 (Committal of Bills).