HC Deb 04 March 1918 vol 103 cc1699-700
38. Mr. PETO

asked the President of the Board of Agriculture whether his Department estimate the increased demand for fish due to the limited supply of meat at or at more than double normal pre-war demand; what steps have been taken to increase the supply in proportion; and whether he anticipates that during the summer the supply will be equal to the demand?


It is impossible at this stage to forecast the increased demand for fish due to the shortage and rationing of other foods. I cannot within the limits of a Parliamentary question, state in detail the action by the Board to stimulate the production of fish. I shall be happy to send my hon. Friend, if he wishes it, a full Memorandum on the subject. With the material in men and boats now available, it is, in my opinion, impossible to increase supplies from our home fisheries to anything like the demand.


In view of the very serious nature of the end of the reply, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he can assure us that his Department, the Food Control Department, and the Admiralty will take the whole of this question into immediate consideration with a view to raising the question of the relative needs of keeping closed large fishing areas which are now closed and of releasing a larger number of our trawlers for immediate work in this summer?


Yes, that shall be considered, but I may be permitted to point out that each trawler engaged in mine-sweeping facilitates the import into this country of many thousands of tons of food, and it is a question whether the trawlers may not be -I do not say they are—more profitably employed from a national point of view as mine-sweepers rather than as fishing vessels.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say, in the limits of an answer to a question, what steps have been taken with regard to fresh-water fish, particularly eels?


That is one of the points I propose to deal with in this Memorandum. We are dealing with it, and I hope to increase the supply.