While concurring in the good wishes to the Parliamentary Secretary, I have some difficulty in agreeing with the sentiment Deputy Meaney expressed that he should be left there for a good many years-unless he crossed to the other side of the House. I propose to direct my attention exclusively to the question of EEC fisheries policy. This is a matter of considerable importance. I am not satisfied that the full picture is known to the general public. I am not satisfied that the Government have shown an adequate appreciation of all the issues involved. Certainly, with respect to the Parliamentary Secretary and to his presentation, he dealt with this matter summarily and in what seems to me to be a cursory and unsatisfactory manner.
I want to say a general word about EEC policy in relation to the timing of its announcement and enactment. The attitude of the EEC in this matter appears to be that they are entitled to develop any new policies that they, the present Six, think fit and, having implemented them during the period of negotiations, it is up to the applicant countries to accept them and to leave the matter at that. I can understand why they believe this. It would certainly complicate their own internal affairs greatly if they had to take account of all the individual views of applicant countries on every matter concerning the present Six, when it remains possible that these negotiations might not succeed. In cases like fisheries policy, one finds that the Community has fallen behind its timetable and is only now dealing with matters it should have dealt with, by its own timetable, years ago. One can appreciate a feeling, on their part, that because they have fallen behind in their timetable, they should not have to consult in great detail with the applicant countries on fisheries policy just because they happen to be reaching a point of decision at a time when negotiations are proceeding.
There are certain cases in which the relative magnitude of the interests of the applicant countries and of the member countries are such that this principle, if one can so dignify it, cannot really be sustained in all logic and commonsense. The attitude of the Community on this has been set out on various occasions. I think their reply to the Norwegian position, at discussions about 22nd September last, helps to illustrate this. As I understand it, on that occasion, the Community representatives expressed the view that the common fisheries policy—such as it would be adopted by the Community in the following months—would be part of the decisions of all "kinds"— a term in quotation marks because it is a technical reference—reached since the treaties came into force and the applicant countries have to accept them.
The Community view was that it was not possible to go beyond recognising that the question of fisheries posed special problems for applicant countries, in particular Norway. The delegation went on to say that there should be confidence in reciprocal understanding and, in the political sense, of the Council, which would never claim to impose unacceptable provisions on a member of the future Community; at the same time, for any Community regulations to be entirely questioned, and re-negotiated after the enlargement would constitute too dangerous a precedent to be accepted. That is one statement of the Community position.
I think that another reference which is contained in the Community's own English language bulletin-European Community. November, 1970-sets out the Community position as follows :
The Community standpoint is that if Norway were to take part in the current talks and the details of the policy this would set an unacceptable precedent.
Norway is mentioned specifically because of their interest in fisheries. The concern for precedent is the kind of thing we get thrown at us in this House by the Government. It struck me, in reading through the relative documents to do with these negotiations on fisheries, that the applicant countries and the present Six are in much the same position as an Opposition vis-à-vis a Government. The same kinds of attitudes are shown by the Government side as are shown by the Six and the same kinds of arguments are used about not creating precedents. Therefore, one feels at home in tracing the line of argument between the two sides because of the resemblance to the kinds of argument in this House.
That is the Community attitude. They have given the Community view and, having said that, one can see why. It has to be said that, in this instance, this point of view is not acceptable : it does not wash. It needs to be said and some of the applicant countries have said it-not, as far as one can judge, our Government, which has not expressed any strong views on this subject, but I shall come to that in detail later. However, other Governments have expressed views, notably the Norwegian and British Governments.
The Norwegian Government, in the discussions of 22nd September last, made a number of important points They consider that the common policy for fisheries which is to be decided upon by the Six and which is valid for the present Community cannot be valid for the enlarged Community since the situation as regards fisheries will be radically transformed by the enlargement. It is thought that a declaration of goodwill was not sufficient in this particular sector in which Norway alone represents more than all the Six together from the point of view of production. How could it be claimed, the Norwegians asked, that the common policy of the enlarged Community should be defined without the participation of the main producer? The Norwegians produced some interesting figures to back up their statement.
Last year, the total fish catch of the Six was about 1.7 million tons while that of the four applicant countries was 4.8 million tons. So, in fact, if the fisheries policy of the enlarged Community is to be determined, as the Community now claim, by the present members, it is certainly a case of the tail wagging the dog. Something like only 27 per cent of the output of the enlarged Community is represented by the Six, yet those responsible for the 27 per cent are claiming the right to determine substantially the fisheries policy for the whole of the enlarged Community.
It is not merely a question of the relative size of output of the applicant countries and of the Six. There is the fact that the whole balance of supply and demand would be altered as a result of membership by Norway, Britain, Denmark and ourselves. In the existing Community there is an annual deficit of about 500,000 tons. They are short of fish. They are a fish importing economic unit. The four applicant countries have a surplus of 700,000 tons of fish. Therefore, the enlarged Community will be one in which there will be a surplus of 200,000 tons of fish as against a deficit of 500,000 tons. It is scarcely probable that the kind of market policy adopted, and mechanisms for maintaining the market, by a Community with a large deficit of fish would be likely to prove appropriate to a Community in which there will be a fish surplus. The Norwegian catch alone is larger than that of all the Six put together. On that account, the Norwegians said it was totally unrealistic to establish a fishing policy based on a deficit situation and then to apply the same policy to an enlarged Community in which there was a surplus. I think it was fairly argued. Indeed, similar views were put forward by the British delegation in the course of their discussions. A strong case was made that it was quite improper and inappropriate for the Community to proceed to settle their own internal fisheries policy and to propose to impose this then on the enlarged Community.
What is our position in this matter? It does not stand up very well to inspection in the light of the strong attitudes taken up by the British and Norwegian Governments. Our Government did not show much alertness in this matter or give any clear indication that they understand the problems likely to arise. As late as April this year in a White Paper produced by the Government the section on fisheries consists of two-thirds of a page, giving a fair indication, I think, of the importance the Government attach to fishing. In this White Paper we were told that membership of an enlarged Community should be advantageous for the fishing industry inasmuch as trade with EEC, which is Ireland's biggest customer for fish, would be on more favourable terms and should be capable of considerable expansion if production could be increased. It was, however, admitted that we would lose our preference, the preference at present enjoyed in the British market, but it was asserted that the advantages of improved access to the EEC market should more than offset this.
It may be noted that in these vague generalities which take up two-thirds of the page there are no practical references to the facts. We are told that there will be more favourable terms-how much more favourable? One can contrast what is said about fisheries in this vague way with the much more concrete information given in this document concerning agriculture. I had occasion to remark previously that the agricultural section of this document, even if one leaves out of account the enlarged and extended agricultural White Paper produced separately, is in fact quite good, well-produced and gives hard, concrete facts. Nothing of the kind is to be found in other sections such as I have mentioned before, the industry and commerce or the fisheries section. This is a document which is for general consumption. There is, of course, the more specialised document for the agricultural sector. I shall have more to say about that. This general document deals in a practical way with agriculture and gives farmers a pretty good indication of what relative prices will be—a useful document as far as agriculture is concerned— but on the fisheries side we are only told that there will be more favourable terms for fisheries.
What about the question of access to our fisheries which is now causing such concern? What does the White Paper say about this? It says:
In addition, some difficulties could arise from any decision which might be adopted by the Community, within the framework of the proposed common policy for fisheries in regard to access to fishing grounds within the exclusive fishery limits of the member States.
It added :
The elimination of quantitative restrictions on imports could lead to greater imports of demersal fish, whiting, cod, plaice et cetera, and possibly to a slight reduction in the prices of the varieties most sought after by Irish consumers.
It is difficult to reconcile the reference to more favourable terms for our fish and the reference to the fact that the fish we actually eat in this country and the fish which, therefore, our fishermen largely catch will be sold at lower prices. No attempt is made to reconcile these or to indicate how the net balance of more favourable terms is struck. I am not suggesting that the overall effect of EEC upon prices of fish in this country will not be favourable : I do not know. I seek information on this which I am certainly not getting from this White Paper.
However, that was the first reference made to access, that some difficulties could arise. That is all it said. Then we come to the Irish application on 30th June. What was said in this document about fisheries on 30th June, the very day, in fact, on which the council of the Community was sitting, having sat also on the previous day, to take a crucial general policy decision on fisheries? We were there in Brussels, if not in the same building at least in the building on the other side of the street, on the same day as the Council of Ministers had fixed for deciding this crucial policy that will have such effect on us. How much alertness did our delegation show to this issue? It must be said that they mentioned it in these terms :
It may also be necessary to raise particular points in regard to other agricultural matters including future arrangements for fisheries——
Fisheries get five words :
——which may be the subject of Community decisions before the accession negotiations are complete.
That is all that is said about fisheries. Whether the Government were unaware through negligence of what was going on or whether they did not think it mattered or were afraid to speak out as other countries have done, I do not know, but certainly it is a disappointing reference.
In the Parliamentary Secretary's speech he has something to say on this subject. He devotes to it two columns out of 28 or 7 per cent of his speech. Perhaps the format of the speech is traditional. Many Estimates speeches produced in this House are written by taking last year's speeches and substituting this year's figures and any other little matters that turn up. Perhaps that is how this speech was concocted in part and that the Parliamentary Secretary was handed it and told : "This is the annual speech. We have put in the new bits and changed the figures." Perhaps that is why EEC figures so little in it. The mere listing of places where harbours have been improved, the mere naming of them, takes up half as much space as the whole EEC fishery policy. I shall not detain the House with references to these places with euphonious names, which in any case I should also almost certainly mispronounce through lack of local knowledge, but it is quite striking to see column 2286 packed with beautiful Gaelic names, somewhat distorted in the English version, and you turn over the page and find in columns 2287 to 2289 that there are two columns, twice as much, devoted to the entire EEC fishery policy as in listing the names of the places where something is being done to improve the pier.
This is a clear reflection of the kind of priority the Government give. There are votes in naming piers in an Estimate debate. Every one of these piers has at least one family living within half a mile of it and a possible vote. The EEC fisheries policy is a thing best not spoken much about because there are no votes in that. There might be votes lost by talking about it. Therefore, let us dismiss it as briefly as possible.
What did the Parliamentary Secretary say in his brief reference to EEC policy? He spoke of "valuable price supports". This is equivalent to the reference in the White Paper to the price improvements but although there is reference to "valuable price supports" we are not told anything about what their effect is. There is no reference in his speech to the House to the fact that the price of the kind of fish we eat will be reduced, to the consumers' advantage, be it said, but not to the advantage of the fishermen. The House is not told that. There are "valuable price supports" which will have the effect of reducing the price to the fishermen of the kinds of fish sold in this country. They are the kind of price supports the consumers may like to see but scarcely ones the producers would like to see.
The Parliamentary Secretary went on to refer to producer associations in the Six. He said that producer associations will play a prominent part in the marketing arrangements which are envisaged. Member States will be empowered to give aid for the establishment of these associations and the cost of this will be recouped from Community funds. I shall have occasion later in my speech to deal with the role of producer associations in the marketing arrangements proposed in the fisheries policy of the Six but if the Parliamentary Secretary is going to refer to producer associations in the Six he might at least have referred to the fact that there is considerable unrest in the Community and in the parliamentary Community over the whole proposal that the maintenance of reasonable price levels for most kinds of fish for sardines and pilchards, I think, is to be left to producer associations and that they will have to carry part of the burden themselves; it will not all be financed from Community funds. The Parliament of the Six has, in fact, been so incensed by this that they have produced a supplementary report of which I trust the Parliamentary Secretary is aware, criticising the proposed policy adopted last June on these very grounds.
I should have thought that the producers' associations in Ireland, such as they are, would have been interested in this and that the Parliamentary Secretary might reasonably have drawn it to their attention in the same form. He does not make clear that the reason aid is being given to producers' associations is that some countries do not have them and where countries do not have them it is necessary for the Community to finance these support measures itself and that they are only going to give aid to producer associations to get them established so that the producers can "carry the can" themselves. What is given here as a great gift is, in fact, rather a trap set for producer associations, as far as I can understand the policy. Nobody would know that from reading the Parliamentary Secretary's words.
What about access? It must be said that since last April when the White Paper was produced and since last June when we sought membership of the Community, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have woken up to the fact that there is a problem here. The previous references to having to raise particular points about future arrangements for agriculture and the reference to some difficulties that could arise—these slight but not by any means alarming references—are now replaced by something stronger because we are told now in this debate that the adoption of this policy of free access to fishing waters would cause severe hardship for the inshore fishermen who depend almost entirely on landings from our own exclusive fishery waters. The Parliamentary Secretary goes on to say that this matter has been strongly pursued in, I think, rather excessive terminology for what has happened so far, in the entry negotiations. He mentions the meetings at which it was taken up and he assures the House that every effort has been made and will continue to be made to safeguard the interests of Irish fishermen in an enlarged EEC.
There is enough in this speech, be it said, to indicate that the Department and the Parliamentary Secretary are aware of the fact that there is a serious problem, a fact of which there was no sign of any awareness in any previous contribution from the Department or their political spokesmen and, to that extent, I suppose, it is progress. When we take this in conjunction with the actual proposals the Irish delegation have made in Brussels—as I shall do later— and the actual approach to it, and when we contrast the Irish position with that of the Norwegians and the British, I do not think there is real evidence that the Government and the Department have taken this, even yet, with adequate seriousness.
I have mentioned producer associations and perhaps I should say a little more about that before moving on to deal with the whole question of market organisation and then structural reform and access because these are, I think, the four areas which concern us. They are ones in respect of which the House has heard very little. In fact, the only reference to producer associations is the misleading one about the assistance to establish them so that they can "carry the can" and relieve the Community of the process of subsidisation. That is not a very helpful reference to this matter. In relation to market organisation there is reference to valuable price supports, totally undefined. On structures, no reference whatever, and no reference whatever to the crucial point that on the question of structural reform the entire burden of the social measures involved in coping with any redundancy that may occur, will rest on the member State and not on the Community. There is no reference whatever to that. As I have said, on access at least the speech shows a knowledge that there is a problem. One could not put it much higher than that. There are four major issues in relation to the Irish fishing industry. They have been treated, one almost might say, with levity in this speech.
Let me say a little more about producer associations. First of all, it is evident that it is the producer associations who will be mainly responsible for the process of financial support for the fishing industry. In fact, the main principle of the proposals adopted on 30th June was that the producer organisations would be mainly responsible for the management of the market. Public intervention would be permitted provisionally only for certain products such as anchovies and sardines. I said pilchards and sardines a few minutes ago but I should have said anchovies and sardines-not of major interest to this country.
In countries such as France and Italy, in which producers organisations do not yet exist but are for the moment in embryonic form, during a three-year transition period the forming of such organisations should be encouraged so that they can take over the job of subsidisation and organising the subsidies and, indeed, as far as I can make out, carrying part of the cost. On this detail I am not entirely clear because the terminology in some of the EEC material when translated into English is by no means explicit, and I must admit to a sense of confusion and frustration in trying to understand some of it. Later on I will have to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to explain to me precisely what is meant by some of these provisions or at least to give an indication to the House as to their significance from the financial point of view to this country and to our fishermen.
The significance of the role being given to producer associations has been noted by the European Parliament. The Parliamentary Secretary is aware, I hope, of the supplementary report of the agricultural commission, document No. 67 of the 1970-71 session, where M. Kriedemann, the Rapporteur, sets out the difficulties the Parliament has, this Commission has, with the proposed fishery policy which was to be put forward shortly afterwards. This document is dated 16th June and it relates to the proposals which were put to the Council of Ministers and adopted in substance of 29th/30th June. It notes that the proposal of the Commission to make producers participate in the intervention costs of the market introduces into the common agricultural policy a new element which departs from the earlier conceptions of the Commission and the opinion expressed on this matter by the European Parliament. That is a clear statement. I am reading from the preamble to the Committee's opinion.
I will not detain the House at length by going through the details of the report itself but that statement is made there and the whole purport of the report is that the Commission has itself departed from its original proposals and from the whole outlook of Parliament on the matter. Going at times its own somewhat bureaucratic way and at times following a course of collaboration with the Council of Ministers which is not to the taste of the European Parliament, it has departed from the views of Parliament on this matter and has transferred the whole burden of organisation and obviously some part of this burden of paying for the support of the fish market to the producers themselves, although this was not originally intended and seems to have been done under pressure from the Council of Ministers.
It is worth commenting that these are not the only complaints that Parliament has in relation to the question of the fisheries policy and the way it has treated them. It is of some importance to note the degree to which at this stage the democratic arrangements of the Community are defective. As most people in this House will know, I am a strong supporter of Irish membership. I am also a strong supporter of reform of the institutions upon which I think there is a growing body of opinion being brought to bear now. As an illustration of the defective character of the present arrangements I will just refer to the fact that, among the other items mentioned in the preamble to this report, are the following : that the agricultural commission or committee of the Parliament note with regret that the Council has refused to consult Parliament on the modified proposal for regulation of the common market organisation in the sector of fisheries products despite the fact that this modified proposal has an importance at the level of principles. The House will forgive my somewhat clumsy translation.
Secondly, the Committee note, among other things, that the Commission has not takes up any of the modifications on amendments proposed by the Europen Parliament to the proposal of the Commission, modifications which without exception had as their object to ensure a common market for the principal products of the fishery sector and to ensure equal conditions of competition for the products of this sector. Again, the complaints of Parliament and its views were ignored.
These are ancillary to my case but I think it is worth noting the feeling of the European Parliament on this matter, the feeling that its views were not being taken into account. The particular importance of this to what I am trying to get across at the moment lies in the irritation expressed in this document at the fact that the producer organisations are being brought into the game at this stage, without any warning, without Parliament being consulted on an important development, and being asked to organise the market for products with the exception of sardines and anchovies and being asked to carry part of the financial cost. Of all that the Parliamentary Secretary tells us nothing.
The producer organisations, on reading the Parliamentary Secretary's speech, could be forgiven for thinking there is some kind of a bonanza coming up and that they were going to get nice subsidies to help them to operate. Indeed, they are-nice subsidies to get them going so that they can "carry the can", but that was not explained by the Parliamentary Secretary.