MP: Cod Wars report is damning indictment –

MP: Cod Wars report is damning indictment Published:  26 February, 2008

MORAY SNP MP Angus Robertson, has welcomed a report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee that is highly critical of the compensation scheme for former Icelandic waters trawlermen.

The scheme operated between 2000 and 2002 to provide compensation to fishermen whose livelihoods were affected by the ‘Cod Wars’ that took place between the UK and Iceland over 20 years ago.

The MP said today’s report identifies several major failings of the

Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (BERR), formerly the Department for Trade & Industry, which ran the scheme.

These failings, he said, were reflected in the volume of complaints made to MPs who, like Mr Robertson, represent fishing communities and significant numbers of former trawlermen who suffered along with their dependants as a consequence of the Cod Wars.

The SNP MP visited Iceland and identified evidence from Icelandic

authorities that could assist the scheme administrators in London, but

the fundamental problems of the scheme continued to make it very difficult for claimants to provide the proof required to back up their

claims, Mr Robertson added.Now,this latest report identifies several major issues with the scheme including:

* The Department did not properly consider how it would obtain and

assess the evidence needed to support claims more than 20 years after

the end of the ‘Cod Wars.’

* The Department did not understand the working practices of the

fishing industry when designing the scheme. So it set complex rules

that were difficult to implement.

* The Department did not test the impact of the scheme’s rules on

different types of applicant before launching the scheme.

* In 25 of 100 cases, there was insufficient evidence to say whether

payments made by the Department accorded with the scheme’s rules.

* The Department did not employ proper project planning and risk

management arrangements at the start of the scheme.

Mr Robertson said:”This report on the failings of the Icelandic trawlermen compensation scheme is absolutely damning and shows just how badly Moray fishermen were let down by Whitehall.The Westminster Government should be ashamed of the way in which they handled this issue and their complete lack of understanding of the fishing industry and the ‘Cod Wars’ themselves, evident at the time of the applications, is backed up by the findings of this Commons report.

“The fact that there was no proper project management and the

ridiculous complexity of the scheme clearly meant that from the start

the scheme was going to encounter serious problems.Myself and other MPs representing fishing communities engaged in lengthy correspondence and meetings with Ministers to try and resolve these issues but it is now becoming more and more clear that the underlying problems were so deep-rooted it would require a complete re-vamp of the scheme to solve the issues raised.

“I met with many retired Moray fishermen whose cases were handled

extremely badly by the Department and many who are arguably entitled

to compensation have still received nothing. The Government has a responsibility to take further action on the back of this House of Commons report and I will be examining their response very carefully when it is published.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.