Yesterday the House of Commons held its annual fisheries debate. The Government was led by a junior minister – Huw Irranca-Davies, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Without casting aspersions about his ability, it seems odd that the debate was not led by Hilary Benn, the Secretary of State.
Mr Irranca-Davies’s shadow is Bill Wiggin. He made an impressive contribution:
"The Minister has just returned from negotiations in Brussels. I recognise that the parliamentary time available for this important debate is limited, but it would have been helpful to Members to have had a little more time in which to digest the decisions that have been made in the past couple of days and to consider the decisions that will be made next week in the second round of the EU-Norway negotiations.
The revisions of the cod recovery plan that were decided yesterday are an encouraging step in the right direction. Shifting the focus away from Brussels and towards local solutions to reduce cod mortality by 25 per cent. is good for the industry and the environment. We have seen in Scotland the progress that can be made by taking a more flexible approach that rewards fishermen. I urge the Minister, when he returns to Brussels in four weeks’ time, to set the 2009 quotas for our fishing fleet and to press for more flexibility in the common fisheries policy and for quota levels and days at sea that reflect that.
There are so many conflicts between the Commission’s proposals, the views of the scientists it relies upon and the experiences and views of our fishermen on the stocks that they see. These will remain unresolved until some progress is made on understanding what is in our seas. The Commission is calling for a 25 per cent. cut to cod quota, but over the past three years, vast quantities of cod have been discarded. According to the Government’s own figures, between 2005 and 2007 almost 5 million cod were discarded by English and Welsh vessels in the North sea and a further 10 million from Scottish vessels. Annual discard rates have ranged from 40.6 per cent. to 83.6 per cent.—that is over four times more fish thrown back dead than landed."
Would anyone care to defend the Common Fisheries Policy?