It is our aim in the current common fisheries policy negotiations to achieve a more sustainable sea fish industry, and that key objective underpins our approach to the negotiations.
My hon. Friend will be aware that tomorrow the Whitby and district fishing training school will be opened for the first time, allowing 10 new apprentices to get the training onshore that they need for the key skills in the industry. Does he agree with the director of the school, Mr. Tony Hornigold, who said in the Whitby Gazette:
XPeople have said fishing is a dying industry. It's not a dying industry, it's a changing industry." In that spirit, will my hon. Friend take an early opportunity in the new year to come and meet those apprentices and people from the industry, to discuss the vibrant and sustainable industry to which they can look forward in the years to come?
I agree that with the changes that the industry faces, there are still a great many opportunities, and fish is still a premium quality product for which there is a high demand from consumers. We should not say that the industry does not have a bright future. The fact that 10 apprentices are undergoing training demonstrates that there are young people who see their future in the industry. That is why my Department was glad to support the training initiative financially. I hope that my hon. Friend will pass on my warmest congratulations to everybody who has been involved in setting up the training centre in Whitby. I was invited, but I am sorry that I cannot be there because of my diary commitments. I would like to come there on some future occasion and speak to the apprentices and the members of local industry.
Why has the Minister so lost the confidence of the fishing industry that industry leaders were forced to describe his performance and that of his Scottish counterpart this week at the European Council as Xsurreal"? What justice, if any, has he secured for distant water fishermen? How can he have taken a decision that could cost thousands of jobs in the fishing industry without any appreciation of the financial consequences to the fishing communities? Why does he accept hook, line and sinker the Commission's proposals without considering the consequences to a mixed fishery? Why has someone of his long experience so taken his eye off the ball? How has he become the David Seaman of the fishing industry?
At the recent Council meeting I met representatives of the UK industry—the Scottish, English and Irish sectors—along with my counterpart from the Scottish Executive, and what we said to the industry was identical. There was not the slightest difference in our approach, which is a common, agreed approach, so what I find surreal is to say that there is a contrast. The reality is that we broadly support the Commission's proposals because many of our fish stocks are in a desperate state and we cannot ignore that. I made it clear to the industry that I do not discount the impact of whatever conservation measure we take, as I have repeatedly said, and I also fully recognise the problems presented by mixed stock fishery management. I am trying to find an effective, long-term and sustainable way of bringing about the recovery of those of our stocks that are under the most stress, particularly North sea cod, and take into account the views of the industry, which will be fully engaged in the process.