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Mr. Milburn: I very much agree with my hon. Friend's comments. Substantial investment—about 9.8 per cent. growth in the next financial year—is going to the local health service in his area. It is very important that that money is used wisely and well. We shall seek particularly to ensure that strengthened partnerships between local primary care trusts, local government and the private and voluntary sectors provide first-class services to patients.

The national health service cannot do it alone. As we know, health and social services are two sides of the same coin, and the work of the national health service—in conjunction with that of the private, voluntary and local government sectors—is equally important in resolving some of the health inequality and deprivation problems that exist in my hon. Friend's constituency, as they do in all hon. Members' constituencies.

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Point of Order

Mr. James Wray (Glasgow, Baillieston): On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I have a complaint about the scandalous and irresponsible reporting of the BBC's "Watchdog" programme. Today, it has issued a press release naming and shaming Members of Parliament. However, I am just back from Europe, where I have been working as part of my job as a full member of the Western European Union and of the Council of Europe, addressing issues such as space application, migration and demography. We have also been dealing with the events in Chechnya, in other European countries, and in every other country where there are human rights violations and stress.

My voting record is low because I am sent to those various countries in Europe. One of the nice aspects of that work is that, every year, I receive a letter from the Prime Minister telling me that I am very hard working. The bad thing is that I am now being prevented from doing that job, which the BBC does not think is important. I am therefore resigning as a full member of the Council of Europe and the Western European Union. I cannot take scandalous reports saying that I am not known in my constituency, when the fact is that I have had the second highest constituency vote in Glasgow. The scandalous reporting of the BBC's "Watchdog" is preventing me from doing my job.

Mr. Deputy Speaker (Sir Michael Lord): I heard what the hon. Gentleman had to say, but the occupant of the Chair is not responsible for controlling the behaviour of broadcasters. However, he has had the opportunity today to put his position precisely on the record.


Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning (Amendment)

Mr. Secretary Reid presented a Bill to provide for the extension of the amnesty period fixed by section 2 of the Northern Ireland Arms Decommissioning Act 1997: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Monday next, and to be printed. Explanatory notes to be printed [Bill 63].

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Common Fisheries Policy

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Sutcliffe.]

2.13 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): As the House knows, it is customary to hold a fisheries debate each year before the December Council, which decides the total allowable catches and quotas for the following year. This is an important occasion that affords an opportunity for comment by all hon. Members from fisheries constituencies as well as those with a more general interest in fisheries management. I am very pleased that the House authorities have allowed us to have a full day's debate on the subject.

I should first make it clear that this is not a scrutiny debate and that some important European Scrutiny Committee recommendations for debate in Committee remain outstanding. Therefore, although this is an opportunity for a general annual debate, there will be further opportunities in that Committee to debate other aspects of fisheries management. I am sure that hon. Members will welcome the opportunity to discuss those issues in detail.

Before outlining the Commission's proposals for next year's TACs and quotas, I shall open the debate in the traditional way by reflecting on the dangers faced by fishermen at sea. This year, nine fishermen have lost their lives while at sea. Although that is an improvement on last year's truly appalling figure of 33 fatalities and 39 losses of vessels, it is nevertheless nine too many. I am sure that the whole House joins me in expressing sympathy to the relatives and friends of those who have been lost.

Training can help to instil a culture of safety. I know, however, that the industry has been concerned about the cost of training courses. I have therefore taken the decision that, for the next three years, fishermen should be able to attend basic safety training courses free of charge. The courses have been free since April. The grant aid comes from our new financial instrument for fisheries guidance schemes, with funding both from the EU and the fisheries Departments in the UK. It is important that all fishermen who are eligible take advantage of those courses, and I am sure that the various fishermen's organisations will be encouraging them to do so. Fishing remains a very hazardous occupation and it is important that all within the industry work to improve the safety culture on board fishing vessels. The Government will certainly play their part in working with them.

As for developments in the past year, the Commission has issued its Green Paper on common fisheries policy reform, about which I shall say a few words later. Additionally, the European Court of Auditors has published a detailed report on third country agreements, which I think are of some interest to hon. Members. Recovery programmes for cod and hake were also introduced.

Following the pressure that has been applied for years in our debates, the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea has issued its advice earlier this year than in the past, which I think that hon. Members will find most welcome. Additionally, for the first time, I organised a press conference to make the advice public and to discuss it in detail. We and the Commission have

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been pressing for the advice to be produced sooner. In previous years, it has sometimes not emerged until November; this year, it was available in October, which gave us valuable breathing space to analyse it. Unfortunately, the Commission has been late in producing its TACs and quotas, which were made available only on 4 December. Nevertheless, I am glad that they are available in time for this debate so that hon. Members can discuss them.

We have also been able to provide the House with a document outlining the approach to the proposals, and I shall refer to what has been proposed and will listen with interest to hon. Members' comments. As hon. Members will appreciate, however, more work will have to be done in formulating the United Kingdom's response between now and the Fisheries Council on 17 and 18 December. As they will also appreciate, I shall need an opportunity to discuss the proposals in some depth with the fishing industry, to hear its views and to listen to its priorities.

Hon. Members should also be aware that the Commission has to await the completion of various third country negotiations before it can finalise its proposals. The main case in point is the European Union-Norway fisheries agreement, which has not yet been finalised primarily because of the very difficult negotiations on the linked issue of blue whiting.

Mr. Anthony Steen (Totnes): We always enjoy the Minister's annual presentation on fish. He mentioned third country agreements. Is he concerned, as I am, about the Spanish-Moroccan agreement, which has not yet come into effect? If it does, the Spanish will want to come north rather than south.

Mr. Morley: I was going to touch on some of those issues later. However, the Spanish-Moroccan agreement is dead. The Moroccans made it very clear that they were not prepared to agree to the negotiations or to the proposals that were on offer. I think that they want to take control of those waters and are not really interested in a deal with the Spanish. Consequently, about 300 boats that previously fished in those waters have nowhere else to go. I realise that the hon. Gentleman is concerned about the North sea and the fishing areas in which our own fleets operate. However, there is no chance of those boats fishing in other waters because most of them are designed for that particular fishery, which is a predominately coastal squid fishery. Those boats will therefore be decommissioned and a financial package has been agreed for the Spanish Government to take them out of their fishing fleet. It will also mean that some thousands of fishing jobs are lost in that country.

Mr. Archy Kirkwood (Roxburgh and Berwickshire): The whole House is grateful to the Minister for securing this debate at this time. He has encountered difficulties in respect of such debates and this is a valuable opportunity. I should like to press him on something that he said about scrutiny. He is right that the Norway bilateral agreement will not be secured until the end of the month. Will he use his good offices early in the new year, when the House returns after the Christmas recess, to ensure that a European Standing Committee can debate the outcomes when they are all known? That will enable hon. Members

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to consider the totality of what faces the industry next year. If he could say something encouraging about that, it would help us during this debate.

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