Richard North, 03/05/2004  

Conservative leader Michael Howard went “as far as it was possible to go” in his commitment to return fishing to national and local control. That was the consensus amongst fishermen following a meeting in Plymouth this morning, where Mr Howard had come to launch the Euro-election campaign in the South West.

The initial strategy was to renegotiate with Brussels, Mr Howard said, but when asked what would happen if those negotiations failed, he confirmed that he would be prepared to act unilaterally. “We are determined to put Britain first”, he told the meeting. “Parliament is still supreme and we will do whatever is necessary”.

On future management, Mr Howard referred to Owen Paterson, shadow fisheries minister, who said it was the intention to scrap quotas and introduce a days at sea regime, similar to the system adopted in the Faroe Islands, where discards are banned.

Having visited the Faroes last week, Mr Paterson said the system had much to commend it. “In a period when the British catch had declined by 25 percent, Faroese catches had increased by 38 percent. Gross earnings per capita stood at £106,000 per annum, compared with £30,000 earned by their British counterparts”.

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