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House of Commons

Thursday 31 January 2002

The House met at half-past Eleven o'clock


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]


City of London (Ward Elections) Bill (By Order)

Order read for further consideration, as amended by the Chairman of Ways and Means.

To be further considered on Thursday 7 February.

Oral Answers to Questions


The Secretary of State was asked—

Common Fisheries Policy

1. Andrew George (St. Ives): What progress she has made in securing reform of the common fisheries policy. [29536]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): The Government are committed to securing fundamental reform of the common fisheries policy with the aim of achieving an economically and environmentally sustainable CFP. The Government submitted a formal response last September to the European Commission's Green Paper on the forthcoming review of the CFP. Copies are available in the Libraries of the House.

Andrew George: I am grateful to the Minister for that response. We have to be optimistic because, after all, even the Commission would be hard pressed to produce a policy more disastrous than the present one. The Minister and I share a commitment to achieving effective devolution in any future plan. In that spirit, will the Minister agree to replace the funds that his Department has taken from Cornwall's objective 1 programme to fund its decommissioning scheme? If he permits objective 1 funds to be used for decommissioning, will he allow Cornwall to run its own decommissioning scheme to ensure real economic benefits to Cornwall rather than to Spanish quota hoppers?

Mr. Morley: That was an ingenious way of working in a local issue on the back of a national question. On the wider issue, the Commission's Green Paper on CFP

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reform points in the right direction. It acknowledges the issues that our fishing industry wants to be included in that reform, and we will be pressing for that.

On decommissioning and objective 1 funds in Cornwall, the £6 million fund available for decommissioning covers the cost of that decommissioning through objective 1 funding in Cornwall. About £1 million has been paid through objective 1 to cover decommissioning bids. Although it is true that one of those vessels is Spanish-owned, it is Cornish-registered, and has a record of landing in Cornwall. Therefore, whether we like it or not, the vessel is eligible under the rules.

I am glad to say that the measures that we introduced on the economic link conditions have led to a fundamental change in the number of quota hoppers. As the hon. Gentleman will be aware, we inherited the situation, we did not create it.

Shona McIsaac (Cleethorpes): I wonder whether my hon. Friend has seen the controversial debate on commercial fish stocks on the pages of the Grimsby Telegraph. That debates centres around seals and their effect on fishing stocks. What evidence does he have to show that seals are having a detrimental impact on commercial fish stocks? Does he have any opinion on the support expressed in some parts of Grimsby for culling seals to increase fish stocks?

Mr. Morley: I am reluctant to get involved in a dispute between my hon. Friends the Members for Cleethorpes (Shona McIsaac) and for Great Grimsby (Mr. Mitchell), not least because the headline in the Grimsby Telegraph was "Clubber versus Cuddler".

The research carried out so far illustrates that the connection between seals and the food chain is complex. There is no clear evidence that seals seriously affect commercial fish stocks. We are, however, continuing to undertake further research to obtain a clear understanding of the role of seals within the marine ecosystem.

Angus Robertson (Moray): In line with the first question on devolving a reformed common fisheries policy, can the Minister tell the House what weight the Government are giving to moves to establish zonal management as part of the reform of the CFP and what discussions he has had with the Scottish Executive on this subject?

Mr. Morley: We keep in close touch with the Scottish Executive. Our position on the CFP is agreed between ourselves and the devolved Administrations, which have been involved at every stage of formulating policy.

I support the concept of regional management and, indeed, zonal management. However, the concept of zonal management and enlargement is much more advanced within our country, as is discussion of how we can have regional, devolved fisheries management. Those arguments are new to many European countries, but we are engaging them to demonstrate that devolving the CFP is the best way forward in order to make it more flexible and responsive. We must recognise the enormous differences in fishing patterns in our own country, let alone the rest of Europe.

Mr. Bob Blizzard (Waveney): I congratulate my hon. Friend on his success at the December Fisheries Council

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meeting in securing the quotas that our fishermen asked for, thus proving the value of good dialogue with the fishing industry. Does he agree that in the context of CFP reform and annual quota negotiations, we need a long-term view of where the UK fishing industry is going. Will he establish a Government industry taskforce, like the oil and gas industry taskforce, to work out where we want to be and how we can get there?

Mr. Morley: My hon. Friend puts forward an interesting idea and I know that he is in close contact with his local fishing industry. We have set up a high-level group to engage the fishing industry, from catching to processing, and it has valued the chance to have such a forum. There will be opportunities to develop that and I will give it some thought. The last Fisheries Council had a good outcome for the United Kingdom fishing industry because we stuck to the science and the industry accepted the scientific case. We obtained changes where the Commission went beyond science without justification and where the case for our bids was backed up by firm scientific evidence based on sustainability.

Mrs. Ann Winterton (Congleton): Does the proposed cod and hake recovery programme, which will presumably be applicable before the end of the year, override the current western waters effort limitation scheme as set out in its entirety in European Union regulation 650/95? Will the programme be directly applicable to all member states?

Mr. Morley: The cod and hake recovery programmes will apply to all member states. The western waters effort management regime is in place, but the cod and hake programmes will take precedence. Indeed, the point of those programmes is conservation management. Western hake is in serious difficulty and we must take firm action. I am pleased that our industry's argument for the use of increased mesh sizes in the bay of Biscay has been accepted.


2. Mrs. Anne Campbell (Cambridge): To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, if she will ban the use of the pesticide lindane. [29537]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett): The use of all lindane-based products is being phased out. No products may be sold or supplied in the United Kingdom and all products intended for agricultural use must be used up and disposed of by 20 June 2002.

The approvals for the use of lindane wood preservatives have already been revoked and stock must be disposed of by November 2002. Some insecticides remain approved for storage and use until January 2003, but must then be disposed of by January 2004.

Mrs. Campbell: I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. She will be aware of the link that has been made between the use of lindane and the worrying increase in the incidence of breast cancer. Can she assure me that,

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as well as being phased out for commercial, agricultural and horticultural use, lindane will be phased out for domestic use throughout Europe?

Margaret Beckett: Obviously, what happens throughout Europe is a matter for other authorities, but I can assure my hon. Friend that we keep closely under review issues relating to lindane. I am aware that concern has been expressed about a link between its use and breast cancer, but my hon. Friend will also know that reservations have been expressed about the strength of that link and whether there is a risk. It remains the case, however, that lindane is on the way to being phased out for the uses listed by my hon. Friend.

Mr. John Horam (Orpington): As the Secretary of State will be aware, the steering group that oversees the voluntary package of measures designed to reduce the use of pesticides in farming in general is due to produce a report on its progress this week. Has she received such a report and, if so, will she publish it?

Margaret Beckett: I have not yet received it. When it is received, the consideration for which the hon. Gentleman asks will be given. As he knows, as and when we can, we put as much information as possible in the public domain.

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