Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 25 March 1993.

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Photo of Mr Andrew Bowden Mr Andrew Bowden , Brighton, Kemptown 12:00, 25 March 1993

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will meet a representative group of south coast fishermen to discuss the implementation of EC fishing regulations.

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

Is my hon. Friend aware that the fishermen in my area are very responsible—they have been following my advice not to involve themselves in any illegal or criminal action—but their patience is wearing thin? Is he further aware that a group of them went over to continental ports and found that there was no effective operation by fisheries inspectors and that the fishermen were getting away with murder by landing undersized fish and not obeying quotas? Is not it about time that we had a level playing field in the fishing industry?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. Effective control means effective conservation in fisheries. Our proposals will tighten up the controls and inspect the inspectorate. We are considering the use of more advanced technology to discover what is happening in the fishing industry. I shall take those matters up with the new French Government immediately. There does not seem to be a great deal of point in taking them up with the old French Government. My hon. Friend will accept that we are not wholly innocent in these matters, as Opposition Members will acknowledge.

Photo of Nick Ainger Nick Ainger , Pembroke

Is the Minister aware that last week I was in the Commission building with Mr. Paleokrassas's chef de cabinet, who was abusive of nation states that did not implement the regulations that the Commission issued on 22 and 25 February on the size, health, quantity and minimum price of fish? Is he further aware that fishermen in Britain still complain that, in some markets, the minimum price is not being reached? What does he intend to do about that?

Photo of David Curry David Curry , Skipton and Ripon

As I explained to the fishing organisations yesterday, we have been in touch with Customs and Excise and we have made sure that we have a proper system of control, not merely on the minimum import price but on the weight of the fish being landed, to ensure that there is no fiddling. That will put a floor in the market. The answer lies not in banning imports, given the damage that that would do to our processing sector and the ultimate consumer, but in ensuring that fish is landed at a fair price. This afternoon, the Commission will make proposals for more effective monitoring of landings by third-country vessels to ensure that they, too, observe the minimum price and hygiene rules. That is a measured response to a crisis. We must not let it get out of proportion, but the marketplaces suggest that what we expected to happen is happening, and that is good news for fishermen.