Select Committee on European Union Second Report


APPENDIX 1

Letter from the Chairman of the Select Committee on the European Union to

Elliot Morley MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State,

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

REFORM OF THE COMMON FISHERIES POLICY

(COM(2002)180, 181, 185, 186 AND 187)

As you know, Sub-Committee D has been considering the Commission's proposals for the reform of the CFP and your Explanatory Memoranda of June 2002, with particular reference to the "Roadmap" Communication (COM(2002)181), and was most grateful for the helpful oral evidence which you gave on 10 July. It has compared the proposals with the recommendations made in the Select Committee's Report Unsustainable Fishing (3rd report, 2000-01, HL Paper 12) and the subsequent comments which I made in my letter of 9 May 2001 about the Commission's Green Paper, together with MAFF's response to the original Report. We should be grateful if the Government would take these further comments into account in Council working group discussions and in preparing for the important debates to be held in the Fisheries Council this autumn.

As our Report emphasised, the manifest failure of the CFP during its first two decades has been in large measure due to lack of political will in the face of clear scientific advice. We were therefore pleased to note the degree of commonality between the Green Paper, which we supported, and the current reform package—despite the intense pressure on the Commission this spring to weaken its proposal. We foresee continuing pressure from national fishing interests to win concessions which, collectively, could have the effect of perpetuating unsustainable fishing effort and practices. These must be firmly resisted.

This high level of concordance between the Commission, the Committee and the Government on what is wrong with the CFP, and in turn, on the kinds of measures needed to put it right, gives us considerable encouragement. In the Council debates and negotiations we would urge the Government to pay particular attention to the following issues, which we set out in our Report and are well supported by the Commission's proposals for reform.

  • Reducing fleet capacity

We cannot emphasise too strongly the need to cut fleet capacity and redirect policy on financial aid to the fishing industry so that it ceases to result in increased capacity and effort (Report paragraph 94). We therefore strongly support Chapter III of COM(02)185 and the specific regulation on cutting aid in COM(02)187.

  • Multi-annual framework for the conservation of resources and management of fisheries

We firmly believe that the approach advocated in Chapter II of COM(02)185 is right, in order to avoid the sort of problems to which we drew attention in the Report (e.g. in paragraphs 121-122 and the box on page 11).

  • Regional Advisory Councils

We are pleased to see the inclusion of zonal management in the Commission's "Road map" (COM(02)181, section 3.9)—a decision-making approach which we considered highly advantageous in our Report (paragraph 100).

  • The six and 12-mile limits

We strongly support the Commission's proposal to continue the current regime applicable to the six to 12 miles zone. During the inquiry we found widespread support for this regime as a safeguard for coastal regions especially dependent on fishing, and as an important conservation tool (Report paragraphs 102-105).

You mentioned on 10 July (Q 2) that you were confident that political agreement could be reached by the end of the year on coastal limits. Even if nothing else is agreed by 31 December, we believe this is absolutely essential.

  • Socio-economic consequences of fisheries restructuring

We recommended in our Report that "present levels of financial support for Fishing Communities from the Structural Funds and through any future Community initiative . . . should be increased substantially" (paragraph 108). We welcome the proposed reallocation of funds from upgrading of fleets to retraining of fishermen, and look forward to the forthcoming Action Plan. Since some questions remain over the continued funding of this proposal, we shall be monitoring closely this aspect of the reform package.

It is not just a case of resources. As in the parallel case of CAP reform, we see a need for much more imaginative and joined-up thinking in the use of Structural Funds to facilitate transition in the areas most affected by changes to the CFP.

  • The environmental dimension

We welcome the Action Plan for integrating environmental protection requirements into the CFP (COM(02)186). We have long argued for a more coherent approach to linking CFP and environmental issues (e.g. paragraphs 86-88 of the Report). It is now crucial that the final outcome of the Council negotiations maintains that coherence across the range of the various proposals.

  •  Global fisheries: developing countries and sustainable development

We talked in the Report (paragraphs 114-119) about the external dimension of the CFP, and in more recent correspondence we have emphasised our concerns about the environmental and social effects of third country agreements, particularly in West Africa. In your oral evidence (at Q 30) you promised to provide further information about the Atlantic Dawn and related issues. We strongly support your efforts to get this aspect of the CFP properly debated in Council. As a recent article in New Scientist (13 July, page 5) has illustrated, there is desperate need for radical re-thinking of the next generation of third country agreements.

We have also argued for sustainable fisheries policies to be given more prominence in the Government's political agenda. The forthcoming Johannesburg Summit offers an unrivalled opportunity for the EU to promote environmentally sustainable policies in its relations with the developing world, including more equitable exploitation of global fish stocks. We hope that the Secretary of State and Michael Meacher will work hard to raise the profile of marine conservation issues in this context.

Subject to these comments, and to receiving the further information you have promised, we are content to clear the present documents from scrutiny. We should be grateful if you could keep us posted on the outcomes of the Fisheries Council meetings later this year, and we shall examine with interest further elements of the reform package as they come forward from the Commission.

I am copying this letter to David Curry and Jimmy Hood, Chairmen of the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and European Scrutiny Committees, to the Clerks of those Committees, Gavin Devine and Dorian Gerhold, to Michael Carpenter, Legal Adviser to the Commons Committee, Les Saunders (Cabinet Office) and Graham Collins, Departmental Scrutiny Co-ordinator, DEFRA.

18 July 2002


 
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