Dáil Éireann - Volume 324 - 20 November, 1980

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Fish Imports.

9. Mr. Deasy asked the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry if he will outline the action he has taken to date and proposes to take to force the EEC to curtail imports of fish from third countries which are responsible for the depressed prices being paid to Irish fishermen.

Mr. Lenihan: I would assure the Deputy that I have availed of every opportunity at EEC level to press for full protection of the Community market against third country imports. I have been instrumental, for example, in having reference prices increased and temporary duty reductions re-imposed for a variety of key fish products.

However, in the broader context, I have been urging the EEC Commission for some time past to undertake a review of the overall Community marketing structure for fishery products and I am glad to say that the Commission recently presented a communication to the Council setting down guidelines for such a review. The communication was a comprehensive document and included provision for a more satisfactory system of controls over imports from third countries. The Commission have now submitted proposals to the Council for a [961] comprehensive revision of the Community marketing regulation based on the communication.

Mr. Deasy: How can the Minister justify the fact that imports to the EEC from third countries have increased by over 25 per cent in the past year? This information was given to me last Tuesday in reply to a parliamentary question.

Mr. Lenihan: I share the Deputy's concern and this is why we have been pressing the Commission to come forward with proposals to deal with this problem. Imports at low prices from third countries are having a detrimental effect on fish prices generally throughout the Community, not just in Ireland.

Mr. Deasy: Do these proposals mean that there will be a complete ban on imports from third countries or only on certain species? In the latter case, what species are involved?

Mr. Lenihan: I can ask the Minister to give the Deputy more detailed information because this is a matter which is currently under discussion. No finality has yet been reached. The Commissioner is submitting proposals and the Council of Ministers will discuss at their next meeting the nature and degree of controls and the varieties of fish to be included.

Mr. Begley: In view of the very serious situation, will the Minister tell the House how soon these proposals can be implemented?

Mr. Lenihan: I would hope this matter would be dealt with before the end of the year. There will be another fisheries meeting in December.

Mr. White: Does not the Minister agree that the problem is the reference price? Surely a quota system should be introduced whereby only varieties of fish not caught off these coasts should be imported from third countries. This is the basic problem.

[962] Mr. Lenihan: The Deputy is on the right track.

Mr. O'Keeffe: Unfortunately, the Minister is not.

Mr. White: The Minister mentioned the market structure. Surely the Minister is aware that there is only one person abroad representing fishing interests in this country. Does the Minister intend to set up a proper marketing body to sell Irish fish abroad?

Mr. Lenihan: The Deputy has mentioned some ideas in regard to control of third country imports that are being considered and form part of the Commission's proposals.

An Ceann Comhairle: A final supplementary from Deputy Deasy.

Mr. White: We are being sold down the river.

Mr. Deasy: Has the Minister power to veto the importation of fish from third countries?

Mr. Lenihan: No. This is a matter which will have to be dealt with on a Community basis.

Mr. Deasy: Has the Minister the right of veto at the Council of Ministers?

Mr. Lenihan: We have the right of veto in the last analysis, but we would prefer action to be taken on an agreed basis.

An Ceann Comhairle: Question No. 10.

Mr. Lenihan: We have taken the lead in persuading the Commission to bring forward proposals. Surely the sensible thing to do is to have their proposals examined.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Minister is being disorderly if he does not reply to the question when I call it.

Mr. Deasy: If the Commission's proposals [963] are not satisfactory, is the Minister prepared to use the veto?