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Lord Stoddart of Swindon: My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Earl for allowing me to intervene. I appreciate what he says about the initial reaction to the taking into custody of the Spanish ship. However, was Britain associated with the intemperate remarks made by Mrs. Bonino? It seems that we were. And, if so, were those remarks supported by British Ministers? That is what we want to know.

Earl Howe: My Lords, my right honourable friend in another place has already indicated that he regards it as unfortunate that intemperate words were used. That is on the record.

The noble Lord, Lord Carter, referred to enforcement and ways in which monitoring and control might be improved. Possible improvements to monitoring and control of fishing activity and the setting of quotas and fishing methods in international waters are governed by various regional fisheries management bodies throughout the world. In addition, those are among the important issues before the United Nations conference on straddling stocks and highly migratory species which meets for its third session in New York this week and up to 14th April.

In international waters generally under the CFP, boarding, inspection and arrest of a fishing vessel can only be carried out by an inspection vessel from the member state concerned. In the NAFO regulatory area, boarding and inspection may be undertaken by inspection vessels from any NAFO contracting party, provided that the vessel acts under the scheme of joint international inspection and surveillance. But arrests and prosecution can only be carried out by the flag state. Within exclusive fishery limits, enforcement is for the coastal state. That is an area where we believe Canada has raised some valid concerns. There is much talking to do about how enforcement can be strengthened over future years.

I hope that what I have said tonight will have served to illuminate the key issues raised by my noble friend's Question and also to dispel some misunderstandings. The negotiations in which the Government have been engaged with regard to the Irish Box have been both extremely difficult and unavoidable. We would have liked to secure more, but the outcome we achieved was considerably better than many had feared. What it gives us is a satisfactory basis for agreeing the detailed implementation rules which need to be put in place by next year. That is the process on which we are now engaged.

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