13 June 2002

Subject Debate: Common Fisheries Policy

The Presiding Officer (Sir David Steel): We come to the peace and calm of the debate on the common fisheries policy. I will rely on Mr Finnie to restore peace and calm by starting the debate.

... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): George Lyon certainly spoke to us in interesting terms. I note the effect of our contribution to the UK paper so far—it is nil.

George Lyon: Will the member take an intervention?

Stewart Stevenson: No.

Is George Lyon aware that a majority of the votes are held by countries that are outside the CFP? Is he also aware that qualified majority voting will apply only if the Commission recommends the proposals? After Tuesday, there is considerable doubt as to whether that will happen. That is the scale of the change of position by Franz Fischler. Far from the SNP and members of other parties in the chamber misunderstanding the situation as regards voting, the problem and the misunderstanding lie with the Executive.

Iain Smith (North-East Fife) (LD): Are SNP members seriously saying that they would rather go to the table not with the 10 votes that Ross Finnie can go to the table with, but in a situation in which they would start with minus four votes?

They would have to persuade the rest of the United Kingdom to support the position before they even started, so they would start with minus four votes.

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): We are tight for time.

Stewart Stevenson: I have been very generous with Iain Smith. He will be aware that small countries that are led effectively can achieve results for their stakeholders. A Scottish delegation, led by an effective minister, would do exactly that.

I think that Alasdair Morrison sought irony in castigating SNP members for their attitude to the fishing industry. It must be an annual event in the Parliament that we debate fishing at 3.30 on the second Thursday in June. I made my maiden speech exactly one year ago, the day after I came into the Parliament and took my oath. It remains a vital issue for my constituents and I remain committed to supporting fishermen, as is every SNP member. Others members are equally committed to supporting fishermen and I am prepared to acknowledge that.

What research has been undertaken on quality? Elaine Thomson said that quality is a big issue. Fishermen in my constituency have asked me whether there are ways in which we can get money to fund research into fish quality. I ask the minister to consider whether Europe will allow him to do that.

We welcome the research on industrial fishing that is in the papers that we have before us. Industrial fishing is a matter of grave concern.

Elaine Thomson: Will the member give way?

Stewart Stevenson: I do not have time.

We do not know the ecological effects of many industrial fishing practices. Perhaps a more serious gap in our research is that we do not know the ecological effects of the discards of deep-water fish in the north Atlantic.

It is interesting that some 20 per cent of the value of the landings of our fishing industry equates to the cost of administrating it. If we were to shift to a position whereby 20 per cent of that value was spent on research, we would be substantially better off.

The real issue, however, is whether we are going to have effective leadership for Scotland's fishermen in the forthcoming negotiations. Are we going to persuade Franz Fischler to recommend proposals, or is the Scottish minister going to lead our UK delegation in the negotiations? Only the latter will guarantee the position of our fishing industry.


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