Members present:

Mr Colin Breed, in the Chair
Mr David Borrow
Mr Austin Mitchell
Diana Organ


Memorandum submitted by Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Examination of Witness

MR ELLIOT MORLEY MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (Fisheries, Water & Nature Protection), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), examined.


  1. Minister, good afternoon. Thank you very much for coming. The difficulty in trying to get satisfactory times and dates over what has been a short period, because obviously we want to conclude the report well in time to make it a contribution to these important discussions, has been acute. Can I start by referring to the recent ICES report published just about a week ago? What is your assessment of the state of fish stocks in the EU at the present time?
  2. (Mr Morley) It is no surprise to either myself as Minister or indeed the fishing industry that the ICES advice is so severe. We know that cod stocks have been in trouble for some time, which is why we have been introducing cod recovery programmes, particularly in the Irish Sea and also latterly in the North Sea. There is no doubt that science does reflect the problem that a number of key stocks of interest both to the UK and indeed a number of other Member States are in severe difficulty with below their safe biological spawning mass. We cannot ignore that science and that means that we do have to address the situation with a range of measures. It may well be the case, and I know that you may have heard this in the fishing industry, that some of those measures that we have been putting in place since 2000 may not have fully been taken into account in relation to the impact that they will have on reducing effort, not least the decommissioning round last year which has removed about ten per cent of the UK white fish fleet. We do need to analyse and interpret this science very carefully in terms of understanding exactly what the implications are. We also need to sit down with the industry and look at a range of measures in terms of dealing with it. Although there is some work to be done on the interpretation of this, I do not think that we can ignore the scientific advice or the fact that stocks are in some difficulty and we must take some notice of that.

  3. Part of the report refers to the urgency of the situation and refers to the danger of imminent collapse. Do you share that concern?
  4. (Mr Morley) I think that with cod there is severe danger, particularly with North Sea cod. The figures on the Irish Sea show a very modest upturn, and I should stress "modest", but at least the figures are going the right way on the Irish Sea, but the stock for the Irish Sea, North Sea and west coast of Scotland are severely below what you would regard as a safe spawning mass, so there has to be some measured action on this.

    Mr Mitchell

  5. Where does that point you though, because the fishermen's organisations are arguing, as you have said, for waiting to see the effects of the measures like increasing mesh sizes and a reduction in the Danish fleet and in the Dutch and the British fleets before imposing a ban. Does the evidence in your mind point to a ban on cod?
  6. (Mr Morley) I think that the idea of closing down the whole North Sea to fishing fleets is not realistic. In fact, on some fisheries which have been identified as being a problem, such as Nefrops,(?) It is not justified either. I understand the fishermen's views on trying to assess the impact of the measures that we have been taking. I should stress, Chairman, that we have not been sitting around doing nothing for the last few years. We have recognised these problems and we have been introducing a range of measures, including bigger mesh sizes and decommissioning, although of course they are phased in and of course in that sense it does take a bit of time for those measures to have an effect. Where I would disagree with the fishing industry is that I would be a bit anxious about waiting a number of years to try and evaluate the effect when stocks are in such a dire situation. I really think that there is more that we could do in a range of measures and I think we are duty bound to act upon that now even though I do not dispute with the fishing industry that there may be a cumulative beneficial effect in relation to what we have already done.

  7. You are equating a ban on cod with closing down the North Sea?
  8. (Mr Morley) Yes. That is the clear interpretation of the ICES advice which is zero quota for cod but also in relation to bi-catch, so in a mixed fishery like the North Sea the logical interpretation is that where we have a bi-catch haddock and whiting fishery then the strict interpretation will be to close it down completely. I do not think that is realistic but I do think that we have to acknowledge the seriousness of the science. I know that the science is frequently disputed. I do not think that is a responsible position to take. I think we have to recognise that although fishery science by definition is never going to be exact, you can see the trends very clearly and I do not dispute the trends.

  9. If you are going to look to other measures and that is an argument for giving the regional advisory councils more power, in other words, they can introduce specific measures targeted to the needs of that area and the fish stocks in that area, the nature of the mixed fisheries in that area, perhaps closing down class one and perhaps even more increasing mesh sizes, is it not an argument for giving them power to exercise more control over fishing in the area they cover?
  10. (Mr Morley) Yes, I would agree with that. The regional advisory councils will fail if they are simply talking shops. They must have real influence in relation to fisheries management decisions and that is the position that we take from the UK and it is the position that I take as a Minister. We have to accept that the ultimate responsibility will always lie with the Council of Ministers because there has to be clear accountability through the EU Council and through the Member States, but we need to ensure that the regional advisory councils have direct input in relation to the Council and they have direct input in relation to the decision making process in terms of management decisions which are taken within their regions. In this case we are talking about the North Sea. I certainly see a strong and effective role for the regional advisory councils and I think it is the most effective way of dealing with management issues and of course we are talking here about the North Sea cod, Irish Sea cod, and there is also hake in relation to the Western Approaches, so many of these problems are regional in nature and there is a limited number in some cases of fishery stakes who are involved in those fisheries, so I think it is logical that we come together on a regional basis and try and find approaches which will of course apply to all the countries who are involved in the fishery because it has got to be all countries involved in a particular fishery, not just one.

  11. What about Spanish effort in the North Sea in that case because it is going to be allowed in for non-precious stocks? There must therefore be bi-catches. Does that mean that they will need to be represented on the regional advisory councils and that would mean a greater influence on them?
  12. (Mr Morley) There of course it depends on whether they have an interest in the North Sea and, as you quite rightly say, while technically the terms of the accession agreement mean that Spain will be allowed to fish in the North Sea from 1 January, in reality just about everything in the North Sea is on quota and therefore if you do not have a quota to fish in the North Sea then there is no economic inducement to do so and I think that will apply in relation to Spain. In fact, we have discussed issues of effort management in the North Sea and the last thing we need from any Member State is increased effort, whoever they are. It is not a discriminatory issue. Perhaps ways of dealing with that might be what little is left which is non-quota perhaps ought to be put on quota and distributed on the basis of the track record in the normal way.

  13. I admire your trust, Mr Morley. I do not share it. Let me move on to the Common Fisheries Policy because as I read it pretty well the unanimous verdict of the evidence given to us is that the Common Fisheries Policy has failed. I will just quote the Joint Nature Conservation Committee which said that it is plain that EU fisheries management has failed systematically and it is therefore hardly likely that reinforcing the present system will work. I find it surprising in that situation that DEFRA - I suppose it has to say something nice about the system it is lumbered with - urges us not to forget the "positive aspects" of the CFP, and claims that it has provided a welcome degree of stability to the fisheries sector, or stability in decline. Let us take the Joint Nature Conservation Committee's verdict that it is failing and therefore it is hardly any use reinforcing it.
  14. (Mr Morley) I am not going to defend the Common Fisheries Policy in relation to its recognised weaknesses which we recognise from DEFRA. The Common Fisheries Policy has inherent weaknesses, it is inflexible, it is bureaucratic, it is too slow to response, it is not involved in engaging the fishing industry in a way that we think it should, and all those aspects need to be changed, but it would be wrong to say that all the problems of the fishing industry are a result of the Common Fisheries Policy.

  15. I do not think anybody is saying that.
  16. (Mr Morley) Oh, I think some people are. Some people are saying that the root of all the problems is as a result of the Common Fisheries Policy and that is not the case. The results of a lot of the problem have been over-fishing which in some cases involved mis-reporting, illegal landings and not applying enforcement. This is not unique to any one Member State, I have to say, and it is also the case that in relation to management of fish stocks there has to be international co-operation, and there have been successes in relation to recovery of herring, for example, which is recovering in the North Sea. Amongst all the bad figures there are some welcome figures as well and North Sea herring is one. There is recovery of the management of the pelagic stocks, which were in generally good condition and good state, and that has been brought about by co-operation within the framework of the CFP. You do need a framework in relation to European fisheries management, and indeed a framework to negotiate things like the EU Norway Agreement and also third country agreements. What we need to do is recognise where the CFP has failed, and it has, and try and address that and reform it.

  17. Where is that?
  18. (Mr Morley) Mainly in its inflexibility. It is a very monolithic kind of structure and when you want to take conservation measures or introduce technical measures that is a regional argument in one part of our own waters. If we use the North Sea as an example it can take a very long period of negotiation and argument before you get that in. We have to move fast. We very much welcome the fact that within the CFP proposals from the Commission there is provision for much faster emergency measures to be taken in relation to their fisheries management and also more Member State involvement up to 12 miles in relation to taking decisions on conservation management. That applies to all. That is a very welcome step as well. There is some welcome recognition within the proposals for change which recognise the weaknesses and the failings in the CFP. But sometimes you get people who complain about quota management, saying that quota management is a failure. Whether we are in the CFP or not we will always probably have quota management or, if we did not have quota management, the only real alternative to that would be some kind of days at sea regime. There is no real alternative to take pressure off fish stocks and to ensure that there is some proper management because otherwise there would be a big free-for-all and the stocks would be devastated.

  19. That is a straw man you are setting up there. If we had control of our own quotas we could manage them for our purposes. That is the political dole out of a country that is the straw man of the CFP.
  20. (Mr Morley) But we have had a political dole out amongst our fishing fleets, so in that sense you would not get away from the issue that quota is not just a management tool; it is also a tool for distributing the fishing opportunities within our own fleet.

    Diana Organ

  21. Can we go back a little bit because it seems to me that when you started you almost had a very fixed view that the science is right, the science is telling us that there is depletion of the fish stocks in the North Sea, therefore everything else will follow, and yet you did touch on the fact that you thought it was not an exact science and it is difficult and you and I might argue that it is the science, but we have heard that it is totally inaccurate to the extent that it is almost laughable. We have had evidence given to us in previous sessions that there is a 40 per cent margin of error on this science and no scientist in this country would accept that that is acceptable as a margin of error and that there are variations from year to year even in the southern part of the North Sea. It seems to me that you have implacably set yourself with the advice you have got that this is the state of the science, but the science is inaccurate, you are going to ignore that, and then the policy will follow from there. Do you not see that the whole thing is building up as a house of cards because the science is so poor?
  22. (Mr Morley) I am not sure the science is so poor. I have not seen that figure of 40 per cent inaccuracy. I accept, as I have just said, that of course by its very nature it is going to be inexact, but I need a reference point in relation to decision-making, and the reference point that I have is my contact with the fishing industry. I do not ignore their views and their experience because it does count in the decision making process. I have to have some reference point in relation to the stock figures and the stock trends. You only have to look at the year on year spawning biomass of North Sea cod to see that it is plummeting like a stone. You can argue about exactly where on the graph that figure should be but there is no argument that it has declined at a dramatic level; there is no argument at all about that. It would be irresponsible of me to ignore the scientific advice that I am getting. I know that there are those in the industry who do refute the scientific arguments and, as I say, I do not ignore the industry point of view and in fact I have taken steps in recent years to try and involve the industry in a much closer way with the scientific assessment process both in terms of engaging the industry with scientists, meeting with scientists to talk about their methods and their procedures. We have had representatives from the NFFO on our research ships which I thought was mutually beneficial for both our scientists and indeed our fishermen, and I am trying to encourage a much closer working relationship between the industry and the scientific advisers because there are some misunderstandings on both sides. I think it is important that we try to address those but to try and say we can ignore the scientific advice because it is rubbish I do not accept.

  23. But on the other hand if we are taking that view as a result because you are taking the scientific advice and therefore the policy will follow, a tighter quota on cod, more restriction of fishing effort, etc, but there is no evidence, is there, and look at what happened on the Grand Banks, that all of these measures do anything to bring the cod stocks back?
  24. (Mr Morley) The worry about the Grand Banks is that there are a number of unknowns about the Grand Banks. One of the theories about the Grand Banks is that the cod breeding biomass fell below a critical level that has not allowed it to recover. I do not intend to let that happen to the North Sea; I just do not intend that to be the case. Therefore we have to be wary, and in fact the Grand Banks should be a lesson to us, not an excuse for ignoring the science. It is true that there may be some other factors such as the warming sea temperatures. It is a scientific fact that cod is at its most productive at the lowest cycle of water temperatures and so if water temperatures are rising it is probably not helpful in relation to cod breeding. We have to accept that ICES themselves in their assessments have made it very clear that their view is that over-fishing is a principal reason for the decline. Therefore we do have to address the issue of fishing effort.

  25. We talked earlier about the failure of the CFP and you are probably aware that the House of Lords Select Committee on the European Union wrote that "the manifest failure of the CFP during its first two decades has been in large measure due to lack of political will ...".
  26. (Mr Morley) Yes, I think there is some truth in that. In fact, we are seeing it now. I am appalled at some of the statements I have seen from some Euro MPs and from the Scottish National Party who seem to be ignoring the science and simply saying that there must be no cuts to the fishing industry and they present this as standing up for the industry. I do not believe seeing fish stocks wiped out is standing up for the industry. There has been a tendency to do this in the past by other Member States where fishery ministers have believed that their job is to come back from the annual Council by negotiating the maximum amount of fish quota for their industry even if that quota does not exist and it is simply a paper quota and it is way above the scientific advice. Even countries like Norway and Iceland, which are sometimes held up as paragons of virtue in relation to fisheries management, have taken a disgraceful - I make it very plain to you, Chairman, - and unsustainable attitude on some deep water stocks such as blue whiting where they have ignored completely the scientific advice and have been taking an unsustainable catch from that stock. There are still examples of an attitude which ignores the science, ignores the long term view, ignores sustainability and instead thinks that it is a populist position to say, "Oh, no, we are going to ignore the advice and we are going to stand up for our industry by saying no reduction in quota, no following the advice from the scientists". As I say, there are examples of that from the SNP and some MPs at the moment in our own country and I think it is to b e condemned.

  27. What about more at home lack of political will to deliver support to the fishing industry in the monies that are available within Europe for modernisation, for upgrading of health and safety? There has been criticism from fishing organisations and associations that the British fishing fleet have always been put on the back foot because they have not been able to get the monies that have been helping other fishing fleets to get the modernisation. Is that a lack of political will from the British Government?
  28. (Mr Morley) It is not the case. We will provide I think a very large sum of money over the next few years in relation to the FIFG programme which we allocate to our own industry for a range of support measures. There is also support in relation to restructuring through the regional development agencies. It is true that we do not give money for building and modernisation. I do not think there is any justification for doing so. In this country we went through a period in the eighties of giving money for building and modernisation, new vessels and extending existing vessels. That had the effect of increasing effort and so after giving out large sums of money in the 1980s, the 1990s were spent in giving large sums of public money in decommissioning those vessels to reduce them. I think with all the problems that we had which we have just been discussing in relation to the problem of fish stocks in the European Union generally it is completely ludicrous to be using public funds to build and modernise fishing vessels because the end result is always a more efficient and more powerful fishing vessel. We certainly are not going to go down that road in the UK because I think it is entirely unjustified. I know that was the view of your own Committee in the last report you did on the CFP and the view of the House of Lords Select Committee as well. It is one of the issues of course that we are arguing in the CFP reform. But in terms of other financial measures, our fishing industry gets very similar support through the FIFG programme as other countries.

    Mr Mitchell

  29. The reality is that because of the Fontainebleu agreement and the nature of the Treasury contribution to any European funding, which is high, the British industry has suffered. It has got less money from Europe or from its own government and mainly from both than competing industries have.
  30. (Mr Morley) The Fontainebleu agreement does work against the interests of our country in relation to the small print of the rebate negotiation that was carried out by Mrs Thatcher. In a sense we do not have the same access to European funds as other countries do. However, I think you will find that analysis of the amount of money which has gone into the UK fishery industry in the last decade compares very favourably with the average that has gone into other Member States' fishing industries.

  31. Would it not be sensible, if we are hit to a degree, whatever figure we can argue about, by the Fontainebleu agreement and if our Treasury is meaner towards fishing than comparable trades are, -----
  32. (Mr Morley) Not necessarily.

  33. ----- because fishing is a smaller interest in the British economy and the overall picture than it is in Denmark and in Spain and in other countries? If it is the case that you do not want to provide money for investment in new vessels would it not be better to argue on the European scale for no investment in new vessels for any country because there has been a huge modernisation of the Spanish fleet, so it is causing a lot not only of increased competition but certainly ill will in this industry that British vessels cannot get it but Spain is modernising at our expense a fleet that is too big already?
  34. (Mr Morley) No, I agree absolutely with you that I think the position should be no funds for building and modernisation in the whole of the European Union. That is a recommendation within the revised CFP where Franz Fischler is actually arguing that the money which is going currently for building and modernisation should be switched into restructuring to help the industry in areas where there is decline; I think that is the right thing to do. One should always stress of course that the Spanish fleet has contracted dramatically, as indeed has been the case in every Member State. I do not think it has expanded, it is true they have a lot of modernisation money but I do not think they have expanded.

  35. They had subsidy support in the 1990s when they were pushed out of Morocco.
  36. (Mr Morley) It is true, although, of course, that is a comparable situation from when we were pushed out of Iceland and there was a great deal of money and support for our fleets, quite rightly so at the time. Indeed that Spanish fleet is not going back into Morocco and it is not going anywhere else for that matter as well and it will be decommissioning.

  37. Okay. You mentioned the argument about standing up for Britain, we have just been told of the example of a new deep water trawler in Scotland which became unviable because the quota allocated, two per cent orange ruffey for instance, made it unviable and, therefore, it was sold off to Scotland. When I was in Hull the other day for the ceremony of changing my name back from Haddock to Mitchell ---
  38. (Mr Morley) That is one less haddock in the North Sea so I hold you responsible for that.

  39. --- which was conducted on a new vessel, they said also that because the French have a bigger quota for deep water stocks in what would have been our waters on a territorial basis that they were worried about viability. Now this indicates that we are not fighting energetically enough, all deference to yourself because I hope to become your PPS.
  40. (Mr Morley) I do not agree with that position. It is true that I opposed the deep water agreement for a whole variety of reasons, particularly as the Commissioner made a very strong statement when he was over here in London in relation to the position that we were taking on deep water stocks which was compromised then in relation to the discussion. The brutal reality for these circumstances is that those vessels have not established a track record. When there is a new fishery of course people want to get into it and part of the problem - which I cannot deny, with the deep water fishery, although I thought the solution was the wrong one - is that when there is an opportunity for new fishing everyone piles into it to establish track records and you get then what is known as Olympic fishing in the trade because everyone is trying to establish as big a track record as possible. That is very bad for the stock, it is very bad for sustainability and it needs to be controlled which is why we have the principle of track record which our industry well understands and signs up to because, of course, on some distribution of quotas we have done very well on the basis of our track record. Unfortunately this is one where some of our own vessels have started to pursue this industry quite late on and, of course, the French have a longer established track record. I think the way it was done was the wrong way because I think it should have been on effort control in relation to the nature of deep water stocks because they may have it in one particular area and the danger is you can fish them out even on quota management and let them move on to the next population of fish and an effort control system would have been a better way of doing it. If you have not got the track record you have not got the track record and that makes it very difficult for me to argue when these negotiations and principles are very well established and understood, including by our own industry.

  41. Do you believe there needs to be a significant reduction in the fishing effort to allow the stocks to recover?
  42. (Mr Morley) Yes, I think that is inevitable.

  43. How big a reduction?
  44. (Mr Morley) I think that is one of the issues that I was saying, Chairman, that we have to analyse and negotiate between now and December because when we are talking about how big that reduction in effort has to be, we come back to the point that I was making earlier on, and I do not disagree with some of the points that the industry was making, that we have to take into account the measures that we have been applying. We have got to take those into account and it may well be the raw interpretation of the figures in terms of effort at the present time is not correct, in fact I am pretty sure it is not correct. Before we can discuss the kind of measures that we need to take to reduce effort we have to agree on what that reduction is and that means taking into account the measures that we have been applying for some years. As I say, we have not been sitting around doing nothing in relation to these problems of stocks, we have been taking action on it and the benefits of those effort control measures need to be taken into account I think.

  45. It means the other way also, conversely to that, taking into account the technological creep, the increase in the efficiency of fishing.
  46. (Mr Morley) Yes, it does.

  47. Therefore it will be bigger.
  48. (Mr Morley) Well, the decommissioning programme, the ten per cent figure is the net figure which takes that into account but it is true there is this technical creep adds between three and six per cent of effort a year probably, just on increased efficiency, that is when you are standing still.


  49. Minister, you are on record as saying something with which I agree that no Member State should undertake to do more than its fair share.
  50. (Mr Morley) Yes.

  51. If the Council agrees to fleet reductions, will the UK actually have to lose more vessels, bearing in mind its previous record?
  52. (Mr Morley) Not necessarily because we have made more progress on the multi-annual guidance programme than some other Member States and we have just had the recent decommissioning round. Now they are all factors which will be taken into account in terms of effort reduction so therefore it is not necessarily the case that effort reduction will fall uniformly on all Member States because we have made a great deal of progress already in these particular areas.

  53. You believe we can share that pain equitably across Member States?
  54. (Mr Morley) It will have to be shared equitably because it will have to be based in relation to the fleet capacity and the calculations the Commission are using which are on the basis that they are working. They are working on the basis that there are a number of Member States' fleets which are considerably over-capacity. Of course, how you deal with that is a matter for the individual Member States concerned. We have been dealing with a range of measures, not least our decommissioning scheme so, therefore, we are addressing that problem and we have been addressing it for a while.

  55. You are not expecting necessarily for us to be able to participate in a wholesale decommissioning round this time?
  56. (Mr Morley) I do not rule out decommissioning. Decommissioning is a double edged sword in relation to the advantages and disadvantages but there may well be a role for further decommissioning. These are issues which, of course, I want to discuss with the fishing industry.

  57. If we do not go through the decommissioning side, will that mean alternative days at sea limitation?
  58. (Mr Morley) I have not ruled out any option at this stage and I think that the way to address the problems of effort control is to have a tool box approach with a range of options. We are back to the regional approach in that you may want to apply different measures in different parts of the country. You may want to apply different measures to different fleet segments according to the problems they face and the needs they have. I think it is question of finding the right solution in the right area and, also, it is a matter to engage the fishing industry with as well. I think we should look at all options and there are advantages and disadvantages in every management option basically. What you have got to look at is what is most effective in the circumstances.

    Mr Borrow

  59. We have talked a bit about effort control, what other management options are there other than effort control?
  60. (Mr Morley) Effort control applies to anything you do which reduces the amount of fishing effort and pressure on a particular stock.

    It is sometimes intended as, for example, days at sea. Days at sea is certainly an effort control measure but closing areas is an effort control measure. In our Irish Sea cod recovery programme, which has some welcome figures, the latest figures, there is a three months closure in the spawning areas for cod. So you are taking effort off for three months of the year within the Irish Sea recovery programme. You could have closed areas, you could have bigger mesh, the bigger mesh you have the more fish escape, that is taking effort off. These are all effort control measures. Twine thickness, square measures, closed areas, whether it is seasonal closure or real time closure, and real time closure is when you may have a temporary situation of concentrations of juvenile fish, for example, and what you could do is immediately close that area for a limited amount of time because of juvenile concentrations, I am actually quite keen on these kinds of approaches and I know the industry is certainly quite keen to discuss them. Again, concepts of real time closure are within the proposals from the Commission within the revised CFP because to be effective you have got to move fast on that. Also there is the concept of no-take zones. The difficulty with all these things is that sometimes they might have to be very big zones to have an effect and that can be a problem in relation to the fishing industry. I am very glad to say that we have got agreement on our first no-take zone in the UK, that is Lundy Island. That is a very small area but I think very useful in relation to shellfish conservation in particular. I think there is scope for exploring these measures further. All of them on their own are probably not adequate. I think where I have a bit of a difference of opinion with the Commission is that the Commission are looking for one approach in effort control and I do not think that is necessarily the right way. What I think we should do is a toolbox approach where you have a range of options and you may want to use a number of them. To get the effort reduction you may have to apply a number of options together and you may want to apply different options in different areas.

  61. Are there management systems that you could use that would not be classed as effort control? Are there things that you could do that would not be in the toolbox?
  62. (Mr Morley) I think just about all these things really have an influence on effort control one way or another. Even decommissioning is about reducing effort because if you reduce the killing power of the fleet then you reduce effort on that as well. These are all options which reduce effort.

  63. Have you made any scientific assessments or been advised of scientific assessments of the effectiveness of the various measures that are being used?
  64. (Mr Morley) Yes. There is an attempt to try and evaluate scientifically the benefits of particular kinds of measures, whether it is mesh size, square mesh panels or closed areas. To be quite honest with you, Chairman, it is why scientists are quite keen on such things as days at sea control as a method of effort control because you can evaluate it and control it comparatively easy but, of course, that very much depends on the amount of days which are available to each individual boat in the fleet because there is an issue of viability for the fleet as well, which I well understand. Effort control is not the answer, although it is favoured by scientists and some fisheries' managers. It is not the answer in itself. You can have problems of increased effort because if you reduce the number of days then the risk is that on the days that people have they will be fishing even harder. There are pros and cons to each individual method, which is why the way forward is probably a combination.

  65. On the science itself, one of the things that has become clear to the Committee is that there is a dispute as to the accuracy of the science. I think even the scientists themselves recognise that there is quite a degree of guesswork, if you like, in terms of estimates made. Is there anything that you are doing as the minister or that your Department is doing to actually improve the quality of the scientific advice that you receive?
  66. (Mr Morley) Yes. We spend a lot of money on fisheries science. The way that ICES works is that ICES is made up of a number of constituent nations but it is basically the whole of the North Atlantic, it includes Russia and North America, and each member state carries out scientific surveys and the scientific information is pooled and scientific advances are also pooled. I think we have a very good record in this country in terms of cutting edge technology in science. We are doing some interesting work on tracking cod, for example. We have also invested in a state of the art protection ship which will be available from next year. We are constantly investing in our scientific database and our scientific procedures. I have to say I think we have a good record and I do have confidence in it. I do want to involve the fishing industry more. I also do not, as scientists do not, rule out their contribution, particularly on their catch figures and logbooks, as long as they are accurate.

  67. On that general point in terms of the involvement of the fishing community in some of these management decisions, what has come over to me as an MP representing a non-fishing constituency, and therefore it is not an issue I would deal with regularly, is the extent to which there is distrust within the fishing industry of either the science itself but also there being a them and us situation in the sense "we are the people who do the fishing and it is those lot over there in Brussels who are making the decision".
  68. (Mr Morley) Yes.

  69. It just strikes me that if you are going to get improvements in the system you need to have shared ownership of the management process and shared ownership of the decisions on how stocks will be conserved and shared ownership of the science as well.
  70. (Mr Morley) Yes.

  71. What work is your Department doing now to try to move towards that sort of structure?
  72. (Mr Morley) We are trying to involve the fishing industry much more closely with the whole scientific process and the annual assessment of stocks, and the long-term assessment. There are fishing vessels which do work on behalf of CEFAS under contract as part of their data collection, for example. They had some fishing vessels chartered in the Irish Sea recently doing work for CEFAS and that is not unusual. There has to be this close collaboration between scientists and the industry. I do accept that at the moment there is this distrust and there is this alienation from the decision making process. That is why I do think one way of addressing this is the Regional Advisory Councils, an idea which originally came from our own fishing industry in the joint Scottish Fishermen's Federation and National Organisation of Fishermen's paper on CFP reform. I am very glad that it has been incorporated in the Commission's proposals and I am confident that we will get that implemented in the revised CFP. I think there is support for it. There will obviously be some discussion on the make-up of the committees and the powers that they will have, but I think the important thing is to establish a principle and I think that we can do that. It is interesting to note, Chairman, that when I was at ICES recently I went to Copenhagen for the one hundredth anniversary and some countries were saying that the fishing industries in those countries actually pay towards the scientific collection themselves and they say that they have a lot of confidence in the science because they are actually paying for it. Now, I am not suggesting that we therefore give the bills to our own fishing industry but it is quite interesting that you cannot get a much closer link than actually paying for it and that gives them a lot more confidence than it appears our own industry has. I think the answer to it is certainly for the industry to have more ownership in decision making but particularly that involvement in relation to the scientific assessment.

    Mr Mitchell

  73. Just as a counterpoint, several European fishermen do not actually pay for the docks, the works and the charges and that gives them a lot of confidence in the docks, the works and the charges. Can we talk about the support for fishing communities in terms of compensation. First of all, I see that the Government does not consider that there is a need to increase the overall projected expenditure, this is DEFRA, on EU FIFG programmes, that it could be re-targeted.
  74. (Mr Morley) Yes.

  75. There is a strong argument for that. Is it not daft that everywhere is opening new fishing markets when there is a diminishing supply of fish and that, for instance, on the Humber, where we have got a brilliant fish market in Grimsby, which you have visited several times, Minister, they are being financed to open another market to compete on the other side in a place whose name I have forgotten? This duplication of markets at a time of diminishing supply is barmy.
  76. (Mr Morley) Well, we did have an independent analysis of the business case for the Hull fish markets, which are words that I know cannot help but pass your lips, Austin, and one of the issues that we did ensure was taken into account was the viability of having two markets on the Humber. Now, as you well know, a lot of the fish going through both those markets is imported. We import something like 70/80 per cent of the white fish in this country which is from non-UK waters. A lot of the fish that we catch in this country, particularly in the south and south-west, is immediately exported out of this country because of the different nature of the markets. Even with the problems that we are facing in the North Sea, even though it will impact inevitably because if there is a reduction in catch then there is an inevitable impact on fish markets, the vast majority of fish coming through is coming from other sources and will continue to come from other sources, so those markets will continue to have a role to play. While I understand the point you are making I can assure you that before any venture receives Government grant there has to be an independent assessment of its business case and that was done in the case of both markets, incidentally, both of which were granted.

  77. That was true of the Dome also.
  78. (Mr Morley) I have to say that I had no part in that whatsoever.

  79. That was just a joke. There is a problem in fishing communities and John Ashworth told us that many of the fishing communities are remote and alternative jobs are in short supply and people will have to leave.
  80. (Mr Morley) Sure.

    Mr Mitchell: I do not only include remote Scottish fishing communities in this, it is down the entire East Coast. There are problems in Whitby and Scarborough. There are areas of high unemployment in Grimsby.

    Chairman: Cornwall.

    Mr Mitchell

  81. I am just talking about the East Coast. Cornwall has problems as well. What support can we provide for fishing communities? Are they going to be in need of targeted support as a result of whatever reduction there is?
  82. (Mr Morley) There is a case for targeted support always for a range of industries and the fishing industry is entitled to its share. As I was saying, Chairman, it does get support through the FIFG. There is a range of other Government funds and measures also, particularly for fishing communities and fishing ports through the RDA and there was some additional money that was made available. It is a complex situation. It should be borne in mind that the vast majority of the English fishing fleet is under ten metres and the under ten metres are generally sustainable and in relation to the shellfish in particular which they catch, the returns are good and the fishery is in reasonably decent shape. It is the case also that in terms of our white fleet there is a problem with crews. It is not as if there are a lot of unemployed fishermen, it is a problem getting crew at the present time in Scotland and in England and, indeed, other countries as well for all sorts of reasons: competition in our case with the North Sea oil industry and a range of other competing situations and low unemployment.

  83. They support jobs onshore, engineering and all the rest of it.
  84. (Mr Morley) That is true, they all come into it, and that is why I am very wary about decommissioning because it is always in the back of my mind that when you start reducing vessels you have a knock-on consequence in relation to shore jobs. I am sensitive to that point, although sometimes you have to look at the viability of fishing vessels in relation to making sure there are enough fish to go around for them to make a decent living. That is all part of the concept of decommissioning. There is support for communities in a range of different ways, both directly in relation to the FIFG, which is specifically for the fishing industry, and also indirectly in a range of other structural and regional measures.

  85. The Commission has estimated about 28,000 fishermen will be affected by the reductions in fishing effort. Would your estimate be of a similar scale?
  86. (Mr Morley) It is difficult to say really because it depends on the kind of reductions, it depends on whether we can turn around some of these stocks in the short-term or the long-term. It is very difficult to say that. That is twice the total number of fishermen directly employed in our industry, which is about 14,000 in the UK, the majority of whom are in the inshore fleet.

  87. Will whatever effort is made to help fishing communities be through the Regional Development Agencies or have DEFRA planned on a national scale?
  88. (Mr Morley) A bit of both really because we, of course, manage the FIFG programme and that is managed in consultation with the fishing industry. The RDAs, of course, are managed through their boards and through the Regional Government Offices. There are also Objective 1 and 2 funds and Cornwall has Objective 1, which is a big advantage.

  89. The World Wildlife Fund ----
  90. (Mr Morley) Scotland has Objective 1 as well.

  91. ---- co-operating with the NFFO and the SSF has developed proposals for supporting the industry through the period of reorganisation. In other words, this is its point at the present moment and (a) you want to get it through various measures like effort limitation or decommissioning or whatever through the difficult period until (b) the stocks begin to build up and when they do begin to build up to the point of sustainability then that industry generates tax revenues and is financially viable, but it has got to be helped from (a) to that point (b) and that responsibility, they argue, falls on Government. They have told us in evidence that they are doing a cost benefit analysis of the programme to put proposals to Government. Without having those proposals at the present moment, what is your initial reaction to that argument that you are not subsidising the industry, you are investing in it?
  92. (Mr Morley) One person's subsidy is another person's investment depending on who is giving it basically. I do not close my mind to any approach and I never have and that is why I am sometimes urged to rule out things. I would prefer to look at individual ideas on their particular merits. I have never closed my mind to the idea of tie-up grants, which is what you are talking about. I do have to say, Chairman, that I am not currently persuaded that that would be the best use of what in the end are limited public funds. We have to accept that we do not have an infinite budget in relation to any public sector, therefore you have to make decisions on where the money is best spent. We do have budgets for the fishing industry and we do have priorities in relation to where we are spending that money. I do not myself think that it is a good priority to use that money in tying up a fleet which actually could be for a very long time. If you have a problem of an unsustainable fleet then even if you recover stocks you are still unleashing a potentially unsustainable fleet which will just obliterate those stocks after all the money and pain of rebuilding them. I think that you have got to look for long-term solutions which, again, means a range of issues, including fleet size, including management methods, including conservation plans, in terms of ensuring that you have a sustainable fishing industry. I am not persuaded that tie-up grants is the best way of doing that.

  93. The WWF proposals are not proposals for sustaining an unsustainable fleet, are they, they are proposals for financing the reorganisation of that fleet to the point of sustainable stocks when that fleet becomes profitable, that is the argument.
  94. (Mr Morley) I understand the argument. I have met with the WWF to discuss this with them and, indeed, I have discussed it with our own fishing industry as well. Of course, it is very easy when you are promising somebody else's money in relation to any kind of strategy of that type. From my point of view, in terms of a limited budget, and the budgets will always be limited, you are back to what is the best use of it, where is the best use and how do you apply it. I am not persuaded at the present time that using it for tie-up grants, which potentially could be enormous, I know they are doing this analysis of what they think it will cost but the cost potentially could be huge, is the best use of public funds.

    Mr Mitchell: Presumably they will come up with a carefully tested proposal and costed proposal. The counterpoint to that, of course, is unless there is some measure of Government support for the industry to reach a viable level, and it has got to for stocks to become sustainable, other countries are more likely to be more generous to their industries and the British fleet will wind down by a process of bankruptcy with the Government failing to support it. They will inherit the earth.


  95. The sea.
  96. (Mr Morley) But they will not, will they, because the quota is national. I believe that there are one or two Member States who are building up big problems for themselves in that they have subsidised an expansion of fleet efficiency with vessels which frankly have limited opportunities and it will come back to haunt them. The fact that they have these vessels does not give them any more fish because our quota is our national quota and we manage it in relation to our national priorities so it is not available for other fishing fleets. What they do is a matter for national decisions. What we do is in relation to getting the maximum benefits for our national quota for our fishing fleet.

  97. Minister, just to finalise, looking back at some of our predecessor committees, at which you have been a frequent attender now, there was reference some little while ago to the production in MAFF days to what might be called a UK strategy for fish.
  98. (Mr Morley) Yes.

  99. I could not find whether that had been produced ever.
  100. (Mr Morley) It is in process. The Fisheries Forum have agreed to develop a fisheries strategy and we have had a number of meetings with the Fisheries Forum which involves all sections of the fishing industry. They are still in the process of finalising particularly the costings of what is quite a sophisticated and far reaching strategy. We have had a presentation from them in terms of their thinking as part of the strategy which links in everything from the catching side to the processing and the marketing side. They deserve credit for what they have done. I think they have done a great deal of work. What they have not done as yet is the costings about what it would mean and they are involved in that currently.

  101. It has been rather long in the gestation, it might have been quite helpful in relation to what we are doing now and, indeed, bearing in mind the very important decisions which are going to be made very shortly. Is the strategy going to be just blown out of the water by the time they get it out?

(Mr Morley) No, I do not think so. The strategy is about overall management of the industry, although of course it is a long term view, it is not designed to cope with the kind of problems that we are facing at the present time with North Sea cod, for example. These are issues which are absorbing our attention and energies, to be honest. We have a lot of demands on the Department, on the fisheries section within DEFRA at the present time, in that of course we are coming to a conclusion on the CAP, we are trying to negotiate that; we have the annual quota round which is coming up; we have the cod and hake recovery plans which need to be resolved and negotiated and also we have some internal measures such as the introduction of shellfish licensing. I appreciate it is a slow process but the demands upon my own Department and officials are quite considerable at the moment.

Chairman: Minister, thank you very much indeed. That has been extremely helpful and I am glad we managed to find a mutually convenient date and time at the end of this process.