This allowed Lord Henley to be even more evasive than usual, as he agreed with most questioners who said rather forcefully that the CFP has been a disaster and pointing out that there are these proposals on the table so we shall just go on negotiating for further reforms and sensible policies,
which has done us no good in the past.
Lord Saltoun of Abernethy seemed perturbed by the notion that the Commission was going to take fisheries back the management of fisheries, which, he thought, had been handed over to the European Parliament (and what good the Tory Parliament would be in this situation I cannot even imagine). Not so, said Lord Henley:
As I understand it, following this report from the Commission, this will be a matter for the Council of Ministers and for the European Parliament. It will be a matter for co-decision, so it will take some time. As a result, it is very important that we build up the appropriate alliances in Europe and within the European Parliament to make sure that we can negotiate the best deal possible for a proper, radical reform of the common fisheries policy.That will presumably be just as successful as our previous attempts to negotiate a radical reform of the fisheries policy.
Lord Pearson made the obvious comment, though he did it to the sound of much laughter:
My Lords, given the success of the fisheries policies of Iceland and the Faroe Islands, and given the fact that 70 per cent of the fish in European waters swam in British waters before we joined the Community, why do we not take back our own fish management to the benefit of our industry? Why do we need a common fisheries policy at all?HMG did not deny what he said. Lord Henley merely asserted that
we are where we are. We have a common fisheries policy and we are committed to renegotiating that along with the Commission, which has accepted that that policy does not work, and we are going to get that right. With the Commission and a vast number of other member states being on side, and with this country being totally and utterly committed to doing so, we can get that right. We will start that process next Tuesday and continue it as long as is necessary.What is it that enables people to say things like that with a straight face as they survey previous assurances of negotiations for radical reform that failed?