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Public Accounts Committee Reports

Part of Committee Business – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 4:15 pm on 29th September 2009.

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Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon DUP 4:15 pm, 29th September 2009

It is not heresy; it is fact. The Member has his opinion, and I have mine. I can back my opinion up with scientists’ views. The Member will, of course, have his environmental, green-tinted view, which we also have to accept.

Sea fisheries grant schemes have amounted to £18 million since 1993 to fund three vessel decommissioning schemes and three vessel modernisation schemes. I have often stood up in the Chamber to represent the fishermen of my constituency, and I have helped them to make a living despite EU restrictions and regulations. I know that my colleague who just spoke has done likewise. Europe is so concerned with the so-called scientific reports that say that there are no fish reserves that it will curb fishing completely, which will undoubtedly kill off any chance of fishermen in the Province being able to make a living.

The EU wants to cut fleet sizes and the time that fishermen spend at sea. I was late arriving in the Chamber because I was at a meeting with fishermen of white fish at which that very issue was raised. Many issues need to be taken on board. The Public Accounts Committee examined the issue of help and grant aid to fishing boats. I was hopeful that the outcome would be one of support for fishermen, because there is something wrong when fishermen can see schools and schools of fish but are not allowed to touch them.

The Committee also found that, despite spending £3 million on modernisation schemes, the Department had failed to survey the fleet and identify and prioritise specific modernisation needs. Nor did it observe good practice in allocating only the minimum amount needed for the project to proceed. The Committee has now received undertakings that the Department will address both those points. Again, the Public Accounts Committee has made sure that that will happen.

The Committee addressed other issues —