Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witness (Questions 80-99)

WEDNESDAY 9 MAY 2001

MR ELLIOT MORLEY MP

Chairman


  80. That is not part of the argument.
  (Mr Morley) It is, because when we have been discussing things like the support for fuel, where I cast severe doubts on the legality of the French package, the French response was "your taxation policies are a form of unfair competition because the operating costs for your industry are much lower than ours".

  81. That is a debating point.
  (Mr Morley) That is the reality of the situation.

  82. The other reality is that the competing industries get, for instance, much easier treatment when it comes to unemployment. Fishermen in the periods when they are not fishing are much more generously treated when it comes to unemployment benefit, and that was part of some of the packages of improvement in that situation. Ours have to face the rigours of Jobseeker's Allowance, which is really difficult for share fishermen. Let us not reply to the one debating point with another debating point. The point is that heavier charges are imposed on our industry but MAFF, which should be the protector of the industry in easing that kind of burden, is not able to do so because they are imposed by other departments and there is a genuine unfairness there.
  (Mr Morley) I repeat the point that I think there is always going to be an ongoing argument about different charges and it is a legitimate issue for the industry to raise. I think these are issues that we have to address on the basis of the particular charge and the strength of the particular case.

  83. The recent update you have provided us with refers to an EU wide framework for the collection of data on the economics of the sea fishing industry, which was agreed by the Fisheries Council in June 2000, to enable a relative comparative assessment and a fair assessment of the costs and earnings of the fishing fleet in the competing industries. In your view, will this identify the real comparative costs of both regulations and the kinds of additional burdens that are pressed on our industry and allow us to have a fair basis of comparison with other Member States, which we should have had some time ago?
  (Mr Morley) In theory it should, Austin, and I support the concept of having this kind of data so that we can have a look at what other industries are doing. It does, of course, depend on the quality and the reliability of the data that is presented.

  84. Minister, quotas and discards now, which are obviously one of the more emotive parts of the policy. You said you were going to look at recording permanent transfers through the annual reconciliation of fixed quota allocation units. You have already agreed that within the pelagic sector ITQs, although not called that, operate de facto. I also recall when you gave evidence to our original inquiry you said that there was a lot of argument in favour of trying to introduce a market mechanism but you needed to get the industry on board, which I think probably reflected on my own experience that the second coming, or perhaps the third coming, would come earlier. What progress has been made on the quota-trading area and how much further do you see it developing?
  (Mr Morley) We are currently out to consultation on the fixed quota allocation system. That is an opportunity for looking at the way that works and addressing some of the points that were raised in the last Committee. I personally think that the fixed quota allocation system has been successful. I think it has provided a range of benefits, not least this track record problem of ghost fishing and all the problems that went with that, and also the fixed quota allocation system does provide a better basis for a more logical management of fish quotas. You are quite right, Chairman, about the de facto ITQs within the pelagic sector, but some of the POs actually operate ITQs within the PO and, of course, they have the freedom to do that.

  85. The report of the Working Group published in September last year, what is the progress on those recommendations?
  (Mr Morley) The Working Group on?

  86. Published in September 2000. It is the Working Group on Quotas and the Permanent Transfers.
  (Mr Morley) That is right. The Working Group report, if I recall, is the one which is on the basis of the Working Group on Quota Trading and Related Issues.

  87. Quota Management and Licensing.
  (Mr Morley) That is the one which is out for consultation at the present time.

  88. Discards: it is difficult to see how you can manage a quota system without discards but, equally, it is difficult to see how you can manage the flak which comes from people seeing discards. You undertook to use the results of research into the economic aspects of discards in considering improvements nationally at the European Union level. That was in your latest Update.
  (Mr Morley) That is right.

  89. What questions have emerged from this research which might give us a way of dealing with this issue?
  (Mr Morley) I do not think the conclusions of the research into quotas is finished yet, I have not seen the report on that. We have pressed the Commission on this, as we said, in the response to the Select Committee report. The Commission are bringing forward proposals about where multi-annual quotas can be applied on a wider range of species, which is something that we very strongly support. It is, of course, very difficult to do this when stocks are in poor shape.

Mr Jack

  90. Can you just update me on the latest data? One hears so many figures bandied about about levels of discards, can you just give us any kind of statistical feel as to how you see the present situation?
  (Mr Morley) It varies in different fisheries. The discard rate, for example, in the North North Sea mixed fishery, particularly in the haddock fishery, is probably around about 40 per cent I would say.

  91. Forty per cent?
  (Mr Morley) Yes.

  92. Is that the highest?
  (Mr Morley) I think it has always run at a level of between 30 and up to 50 per cent in that particular fishery. It has always been a very high discard fishery.

  93. Just to go back to the system of quotas that you were describing a moment ago, is that a rolling programme where you would accept that you would land discards as part of a catch but then adjust the quota later on?
  (Mr Morley) The idea of the multi-annual quotas, and it touches upon an issue which often confuses some people when you talk about discards—The most indignation comes from marketable fish which has to be thrown over the side because the quota has been exhausted. Multi-annual quotas would remove that because you would have an element of adjustment in relation to year on year where you may be a bit over on one year and a bit less on the other, so you can even it out on a three to five year rolling programme, say. That deals with that problem but it does not deal with the problem of juvenile and unmarketable discards, which is by far the largest element of discards in our fishing grounds. The 40 per cent discards I was talking about in the North North Sea are predominantly juvenile fish, they are not a result of quota management, it is just the fact that they are not marketable.

Chairman

  94. The Green Paper talks about Integrated Coastal Zone Management and it may be that here we have the glimmerings of a policy over which there may be some "ownership" of value of fisheries depending on where the balance of power lies between decision making between the supervisory role of the Commission and decision making powers of local management. Do you support this move in principle?
  (Mr Morley) Yes, I do, Chairman, I think it is a sensible way forward.

  95. Do the Sea Fisheries Committees have a role to play in it?
  (Mr Morley) I think so. I think that in relation to coastal management policies into our coastal fisheries, the Sea Fisheries Committees have a very important role to play. One of the areas where they may have an enhanced role, Chairman, is you will know that we are currently consulting on a shellfish licence which I, personally, strongly support, and I think the administration of that licence could be a role for the Sea Fisheries Committees.

  96. Because there are, indeed, outstanding issues about the powers and resources of the Committees. When might we expect you to conclude your reflections upon this?
  (Mr Morley) On the consultation period?

  97. In an uninterrupted world.
  (Mr Morley) I do not know offhand. It cannot be very far away, Chairman, because of the closure date for consultation.

  98. The Association of Sea Fisheries Committees would like to see coastal waters of Member States extended to a limit of 12 nautical miles.
  (Mr Morley) Yes.

  99. Not a surprising demand, I suppose. What is your view?
  (Mr Morley) If we could get agreement on that I would be delighted to do that. We do, of course, have jurisdiction out to 12 miles but there are historical rights of vessels, as you know, Chairman, between six and 12 for a limited number of countries and there are restrictions in relation to the size of vessels and things like that. I would strongly argue, and indeed have argued within the Council of Ministers, that giving Member States much more control out to 12 miles is a way of strengthening conservation management, particularly of our inshore sector which tends to be a low impact fishery. I think there is a very strong argument for strengthening the role out to 12 miles and, indeed, I am prepared to argue for that and see what support there is within the Council for that.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 20 June 2001