But, opening the annual debate on fisheries policy, Elliot Morley, the Fisheries Minister, dismissed claims that quotas would be exploited as "myths" and pledged that the Government would fight to retain the restrictions on access to its waters, even if that was opposed by southern European nations.
By the end of 2002, when the reformed Common Fisheries Policy is adopted, all aspects of the policy would be rolled over automatically if EU members agreed by qualified majority vote, apart from access restrictions within six and 12 miles of national coasts, he said.
"I know that there is concern. The Government is totally committed to maintaining these important provisions and is convinced that it will be achieved... because other EU states want the restrictions being kept. I can see no difficulty in keeping them for Britain too."
Patrick Nicholls, for the Tories, attacked the "appalling" quota cuts for the West Country, which he said were a "dire prospect" for its fishermen.
Mr Nicholls said there were real concerns among fishermen about the uniformity of quota policing among Britain's EU partners. He said the industry had also been hit by the "crushing weight of bureaucracy" which left fishermen "deeply depressed".
Mr Nicholls said agreement in the early Seventies to treat Britain's fishing waters as a common resource had proved a conservation disaster.Reuse content