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Baroness Rawlings: I thank the Minister for his clear answers. I was most interested in the points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Grenfell. But the noble Lord, Lord Stoddart, will not be surprised to hear that I cannot

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agree with him. I hate to disillusion him, but widening and deepening will have to go hand in hand if we want the European Union to continue to exist and succeed.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: I do not see how the noble Baroness can make that assertion. The European Union consisting of 15 members does not depend for its continuation on the extension to six, nine, 10 or other countries to the east. It will continue. And if the noble Baroness asks Mr. Heath, he will agree with me.

Baroness Rawlings: Perhaps the noble Lord will accept that on every enlargement process we had to have institutional changes to cope with the enlargement. I am sure, therefore, that we will have to have institutional changes if we want to enlarge into further areas.

Lord Stoddart of Swindon: That was not the issue. The noble Baroness said that the European Union would collapse unless it was enlarged. That simply is not true. The continuation of the European Union as an entity does not depend on enlargement. If we do not enlarge it will continue, presumably, though I should like to see it not continue.

Baroness Rawlings: Perhaps we should leave that point until a later date. Enlargement is obviously one of the most important parts of the Bill, and we will have to come back to it at Report. However, at this stage I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 2 agreed to.

[Amendments Nos. 44 to 54 not moved.]

11 p.m.

Lord Moynihan moved Amendment No. 54A:

After Clause 2, insert the following new clause--


(" . This Act shall come into force only when each House of Parliament has come to a Resolution on a motion tabled by a Minister of the Crown considering the legal protection for British fishermen afforded by the Treaty of Amsterdam on the issue of quota-hopping.").

The noble Lord said: We now move on to the important issue of the need for reform of the common fisheries policy and the problem of quota-hopping, which is an area where, when measured against the tangible benefits secured for the British people, the Government's negotiation at Amsterdam is found wanting.

There is consensus in the Committee that the conservation of fish stocks depends vitally on international co-operation. Europe must have a joint policy in this area. Hence the need for a common fisheries policy. There is consensus, too, that we must improve the operation of the present policy, which has been unevenly enforced, which has failed to overcome the central problem of overfishing in Europe's waters and which has proved inequitable in practice. The

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previous Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food made that clear with the following quotation:

    "what Europe has to face is that the Common Fisheries Policy as now constituted is not working. It is over-bureaucratic, it is open to abuse and above all it is not fair to the British fishing fleet".

There is further consensus that the practice of "quota hopping"--that is, foreign owned and foreign crewed ships landing their catches abroad--is a particular problem, not least because it prevents fishing communities from enjoying a secure benefit from national quotas, thereby undermining the whole intention of the quotas. The CFP was expressly designed to ensure that national fishing fleets would be given fair access to Europe's fish stocks. But quota-hopping, which now accounts for about 20 per cent. of the tonnage of Britain's offshore fleet, is frustrating that very purpose.

The previous government were committed to a successful future for the British fishing fleet and were determined to address this and other problems in the CFP, and to leave no avenue unexplored in that quest. The stage was set at the IGC for the fulfilment of this promise, even though the issue of quota-hopping was not officially on the agenda. That is why, in July 1996, the previous government tabled a protocol at the IGC to ensure that the British fishing quota went to British fishermen.

It was a key priority, and the former Prime Minister made that clear before the general election, when he said:

    "The IGC won't come to a successful conclusion until we are satisfied that among our other objectives the problem of quota- hopping is resolved satisfactorily".

Despite an election manifesto which contained just one sentence on fishing, the then opposition's policy appeared to be equally robust in refusing to tolerate the continuation of quota-hopping. The current fisheries Minister, Elliot Morley, stated in March:

    "The Minister"

--that is, Tony Baldry--

    "said that it [quota hopping] will be pursued vigorously at the IGC and we support that approach".

Likewise, Tony Blair, then the Leader of the Opposition, promised our fishermen a firm line. On the BBC "World at One", he told the country:

    "we certainly have not ruled out holding up IGC business in order to get the right changes to fishing policy in the British interest ... where Britain's interests are at stake, we are perfectly prepared to be isolated. Of course we are".

But when it came to the summit itself, the Prime Minister lacked the stomach for a fight. Something clearly caused him to change his mind and to decide that the interests of British fishermen were subordinate to the prospect of being isolated in Europe. If that is not the case, we have the opportunity to hear from the Minister why the Government did not back the protocol for treaty change tabled by their predecessor.

The reason the Government have given is that there was no support for the protocol among our European partners; not that it was a bad or unfair protocol, but that it had no support. Why did the Prime Minister

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change his mind about holding up IGC business to get a deal? Perhaps he took advice from the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, who said that the last government's,

    "threat ... to sabotage the whole IGC process if we did not get agreement to a protocol, for which we had no support whatsoever in any single European state",

was "foolish" and "counterproductive". So much for being prepared to hold up IGC business; so much for being prepared to be isolated in Europe; so much for the interests of British fishermen. Instead, when he announced the deal the Prime Minister said that the Government had made,

    "real progress in Amsterdam on the problem of quota hoppers--fishermen from other Member States who fish against British quotas".

If the Government have got such a good deal on quota-hopping for Britain's fishermen, why did the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations describe it as "a hopelessly inadequate fudge"? What very tough line did the Prime Minister take to defend the interests of British fishermen? Is it not the case that the Government lacked Conservative resolve to restore 20 per cent. of our national fishing capacity at the IGC? In its place followed empty rhetoric.

We have been told about the Prime Minister's exchange of correspondence with the president of the Commission, but in actual fact the Prime Minister won a meaningless letter of condolence from the president which does no more than re-state the existing situation, confirming Britain's rights to issue licences requiring 50 per cent. of fish caught against the UK quota to be landed in British ports. Can the Minister tell the House this evening whether the letter from the president of the Commission has any legal authority and exactly how the provisions set out in that letter differ from the previous arrangements on quota-hopping?

British fishermen already know their rights, but they need help from the Government to enforce them; help that was promised. That promise appears to have been broken unless the Minister can guarantee that in a legal challenge from Spain which has won four European court rulings defending its rights to buy access to British quotas, the Commission will unequivocally support Britain. After all, it is the same Commission that agreed to Spain's demands that quota-hopping should not form any part of the negotiations on the treaty.

Will the Minister confirm that the Prime Minister's deal actually depends entirely on the Commission's good will; a Commission which will seek to look after the interests of not just this country, but the Dutch, the Spanish and other interests as well?

So we are left with the cold conclusion that the Government U-turned on the pre-election consensus that quota-hopping could only be effectively dealt with by treaty changes. The Spaniards have since poured scorn on the Prime Minister's claim to have solved quota-hopping. British fishermen have poured scorn on it and it is likely that the courts will pour scorn on it. Perhaps I may read to the Committee the comments of the "Save Britain's Fish" campaign, which identifies the strengthening of the discrimination laws and the Prime

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Minister's precious letter from Jacques Santer as the main issue of concern for British industry arising from the Amsterdam negotiations. They state:

    "Tony Blair came away with nothing new, and clutched a worthless piece of paper. His Government has shown that they do not understand the Common Fisheries Policy, the importance of the discriminatory laws and are charging up the wrong track".

Indeed, even the Prime Minister has admitted that he perhaps overstated the progress made when he said,

    "I in no way pretend that the agreement solves the whole problem--that would be a foolish illusion and it would be wrong to suggest it".

His definition of real progress certainly owes more to the fantasy league of European Summit triumphs than to reality.

But what does all this say for the Government's claim for leadership in Europe and to standing up for Britain's interests in Europe? Clearly, the Prime Minister was serious when he said that he would never be isolated in Europe even if it meant sacrificing the interest of Britain. With that approach such a Government could never be able to emulate the success of the previous government in negotiating key concessions to our national interest such as our rebate and our opt-out of monetary and economic union. That is why this evening I have tabled this amendment to consider the legal protection for British fishermen afforded by the Treaty of Amsterdam, for the truth is that it affords no legal protection. The Government's guarantees have come to nothing; their promises to fishermen are broken; their deal is worthless and they clearly do not regard the fishing industry as key to British interests.

So in the light of that and in the light of the amendment I have tabled, I look forward to the Minister's reply regarding how Amsterdam has given our fishermen anything besides zero guarantees and zero prospects. I beg to move.

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