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[Albert Owen in the Chair] — Backbench Business — Fisheries

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:04 pm on 2nd December 2010.

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Photo of Richard Benyon Richard Benyon The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 5:04 pm, 2nd December 2010

I forget the figures for the English fleet, but in Scotland, there are 17 vessels in a catch quota system. That represents about 20% of that fleet-perhaps not; I cannot remember the exact figure. At the moment, that system is a trial. We tried to persuade the Commission-and we will continue to try-that we must move beyond a trial. We want to get every vessel possible into a catch quota system because, for reasons that I will mention, that is the solution. Fishermen are incentivised to do something that gives them more fish, ends discards and is a bottom-up approach. It makes fishermen part of the solution, and instead of being the battered person at the end of the line being hit by a stick, they are given a carrot to find a solution. I will go on to talk about mackerel, which was mentioned by the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan and others.

My hon. Friend Mr Reid echoed the point about decentralisation and I know the importance of nephrops to his constituency and the difficulties that are faced there. He rightly mentioned the difficulties of displacement. When we create a management regime that results in less activity in one area, there is a displacement effect. Too often, we have seen the malign effect of displacement round our coastline, and he is right to raise that issue. However, he sensibly discussed the world in which we live. I would love to debate how we got to this point, but that would be a waste both of my time and of the House's. We should put all our energy into working with a system that we think we might be able to change. For the first time in my adult life and in the experience of people who have been in the House for many fisheries debates, we find the door open to a level of reform that we must try to achieve. I recognise that that is important.

Mr Doran is an able chairman of the all-party group, which benefits from his knowledge of, and passion for, the subject. He rightly pointed out the importance of the processing industry. We must remember the jobs at stake and the importance to our food security of keeping the infrastructure that we require on land to support the jobs that we are discussing and get the product to market that our fishermen bring ashore. I think that he is rather depressed about the prospects for CFP reform. That probably comes from years of experience, but I hope that we can work with him.