Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witness (Questions 100-108)

WEDNESDAY 9 MAY 2001

MR ELLIOT MORLEY MP

Mr Todd


  100. You touched on the issue of powers and resources of Sea Fisheries Committees. Logically, if they are going to be given a greater role in management then one has to look at both their constitution and how well they reflect the task they have in front of them and also the resources, the money, they have available to carry out their function. How far has that detailed work actually gone?
  (Mr Morley) The Sea Fisheries Committees do have proposals of their own and they have been pressing for a review of the legislation to modernise, legislation that gives them powers. There is a case for reviewing legislation. There is a case for addressing some of the areas where they feel their powers are inadequate, and I am sympathetic to that. It would require time, of course.

  101. Has there been a bid?
  (Mr Morley) Yes, there is a bid in in relation to our future programme, in relation to certain aspects of it. There are different levels of changes which require different levels of complicated legislation. On the resource issue, which has been a long-standing issue, because they are resourced by local authorities, I understand the Sea Fisheries Committees' concerns about this, and there is no simple answer to this.

  102. There is no ring-fencing of the resources.
  (Mr Morley) No, it very much depends on the local authorities, it is not ring-fenced.

Mr Drew

  103. You may have answered this, I want to look forward a few years, the expansion of the EU and what impact that might have on the some of policies that are you trying to implement.
  (Mr Morley) I think the expansion of the EU will have a fairly marginal impact on the Common Fisheries Policy. There are some candidate nations that do have significant fishing fleets, Poland is one, and some of the Baltic States, however they do not fish within current EU waters. The issue is that if we can maintain the principle of relative stability, and I think that we can maintain that, because I think there is a consensus agreement within the Council of Ministers, if we maintain that post 2002 as part of the Review then, of course, the candidate nations will not have a quota within EU waters and will not have access to EU waters.

Mr Jack

  104. You mentioned, it follows on from the area you have just been discussing, you thought some consensus was emerging from the Council around the Green Paper proposal, then you said in the Council the Spanish had disagreed from the position they had taken more privately within bilateral discussion. Can you give us a flavour of the areas of Spanish disagreement at the present time?
  (Mr Morley) The Spanish minister in the April discussions was basically—I hope I am not doing him a disservice—arguing for EU-wide ITQs. He was arguing that a quota should be tradable across international boundaries. He also did not give support to the coastal limits, and that was a little bit surprising. I know countries like Portugal are very strongly in support of coastal limits.

  105. Can you refresh my memory, in terms of the 2002 situation, is there a consensus about not allowing Spain to fish in the North Sea?
  (Mr Morley) We are back to relative stability, that is where the consensus is, if relative stability is maintained, as Spain and Portugal do not have a quota within the North Sea, then, of course, they have no useful access.

  106. What about access to waters for non quota species?
  (Mr Morley) Theoretically they will have access to waters for non quota species but I cannot think of any commercially important non quota species available in the North Sea. Over the last four years new, non quota species have been put on quota, and I have to say, Chairman, the United Kingdom did very well out of that, getting 80 per cent of the—

Chairman

  107. Minister, finally can I ask a question that I asked Mr Deas at the beginning, there only seems to be one route, it is more regulated, more complicated and fishermen are diverted on to one stock and it becomes under strain and before we know where we are there is a need to introduce licensing on that stock because that has been hit too hard. You yourself have introduced additional regulations, for example, the landing limitations, which everybody understands, can you conceive of a scenario where this goes into reverse? One is all the time multiplying regulation for what is, after all, a small catching industry. I accept your point about it being a dependent industry on the shore which does consume a very large amount of government money. Every time you go along to the Treasury to ask for more money you receive the same reception, that I have no doubt Mr Jack and I received, "You cannot be back again for more money for that industry!".
  (Mr Morley) "Do not darken our door" is a familiar refrain.

  108. I expect there is a culture in the Treasury, for understandable reasons, I do not think that changes with government, can you envisage a scenario where we could unravel it a bit and free it up and it could still work as an industry?
  (Mr Morley) There is a case for trying to cut through some of the bureaucracy. It is part of the submission that we have made from the United Kingdom to the EU that we should look very carefully at the range of restrictions which are placed on the fishing industry and to examine whether or not they are justifiable. There is always going to have to be some restriction on the fishing industry, that is inevitable, although the development of new technology does allow, in principle, the possibility of reducing some of the restrictions, satellite monitoring and things like that. We do have one or two problems with the satellite monitoring going off on regular occasions which we need to resolve, but it does have the potential to reduce some of the bureaucracy.

  Chairman: Minister, we do not know whether we will be here after the election, you do not know whether you will be here and we have no idea whether MAFF will be there, although I have to say I rather take the view that all those people forecasting its demise ought to look at history and they will have been there before. I expect to see it survive rather more than most people expect to see it survive. You have done a very long stint as Fisheries Minister and without forecasting your fate or our fate I have no doubt you have scars to show, as we all have. One day we will form a club and invite Mr Mitchell to be an honorary member in order to continue the process of educating him. Thank you very much for coming to us today, and in whatever capacity we will look forward to meeting in the new Parliament, or not?


 
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