Labour's Fishy Policy Destroys Industry say MEPs

Struan Stevenson MEP, UK Conservative Spokesman on fisheries in the European Parliament, and Sir Robert Atkins, MEP for the North West, have joined forces to slam the Government's policy on fisheries. In a letter of 20 August to Sir Robert, Elliot Morley - UK Fisheries Minister - openly rejects the idea of giving compensation to fishermen, who have to tie up their boats due to European legislation.

Speaking from the plenary session in Strasbourg, Struan Stevenson said: "This is the last straw in a long succession of disappointments for our fishermen. In his letter, Mr Morley states that he would find it 'difficult to justify making compensation payments for a decline in stocks'. Does Mr Morley not realise that if he ever had any intention of saving the crumbling fishing industry, compensation payments are the only way forward to alleviate the current crisis. While Spanish, Portuguese and French fishermen receive financial support in times when they have to tie up their boats, British fishermen are forced out of business. But rather than invest in an industry that support areas where people have no means to diversify, Mr Morley prefers to sideline the issues at hand and justifies his actions by claiming that fishing is of little importance to the British economy.

"I am outraged at the Minister's audacity. Is it not hard enough for our fishermen to hold their own against declining fish stocks, plummeting quotas and the ever increasing armada of Southern European vessels coming to fish in our waters. Should they not be able to rely on their government to be on their side?"

Sir Robert Atkins MEP added: "As one of the MEPs for the North West, I am responsible for some of Britain's most important fishing ports, such as Fleetwood and Whitehaven. Many of my constituents' livelihoods are directly related to the fishing industry. But rather than lending a hand, Elliot Morley has decided to kick them when they are down. I have visited fishermen all around the area and they are unanimous in their opinion that it is high time for this government to deliver."

Note to the editor:

In a letter to Sir Robert Atkins MEP on 20 August Elliot Morley wrote:

"With regard to grants, I have not promised to provide financial support if other Member States do so. This would be a rash thing for me to do. Each Member State has its own spending priorities. Their fishing industries are in different states of development and vary in their relative importance to national economies. In principle, I would find it difficult to justify making compensation payments for a decline in stocks, particularly when the cause of the problem could relate to overfishing, or for conservation measures that are designed to improve stocks and fishing opportunities for the future."

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