HC Deb 04 August 1919 vol 119 cc130-2

Third Resolution read a second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution.


I must apologise to the Scottish Members for intervening in this Debate on a purely Scottish subject, but I would like to make the personal explanation that I was born and bred near Great Yarmouth, which is the largest herring port in England, if not in the world, and I take a deal of interest in the herring question. The vote which appears on the Paper seems to call for some comment—I mean the grant of £1,131,000 for pickled herrings before the l5th September, 1919, and that the sum will cover purchases in England and Wales as well as in Scotland. I do not propose to make any objection to that Grant, because the money will be returned, I expect, by the sale of these herrings on the Continent, but I think the policy which has led up to the Grant of that money is wrong, and it ought not to be repeated. The amount of herrings which that will cover, 400,000 barrels, I put down at 300,000,000 herrings—600 a barrel. That is about one-tenth of the total export of herrings before the War to Continental ports. They went for the most part to Germany and to Russia. Now it seems to me that a small amount of herrings like that could very well, if there had been any energy, I will not say in the Fishery Board for Scotland or England, but in the curers themselves, have found a market in various inland towns in this country. When I think that there is likely to be a great shortage of meat, and that we cat no more than 1½ ozs. per head per week of all sorts of fish in this country, and .3 lbs. per head of meat, of which 1½ lb. is imported, and we have to pay for it, I think on economic grounds, let alone on the grounds of enterprise, something ought to have been done to put even another ounce and a half of fish per individual in this country into the hands of the consumer. I do not propose to sing the praises of the herring, but I would remind the house that, weight for weight, the herring gives as much sustenance to a man as fat beef, and I think some steps ought to have been taken, on propagandist lines, to inform the people of this country that they have a cheaper form of food awaiting them than beef. I remember an occasion in the port of Yarmouth, about ten years ago, when we had 100,000,000 herrings one day, and 80 per cent. were sent to Germany and Russia, at prices ranging from 3s. per 1,000 to 12s. per 1,000. That meant that you could buy 12lbs. of herrings for 1d. An hon. Member asked a question as to whether there should be imported tinned herrings into this country, or whether restriction should be put upon the importation. I am not controverting that question in any way, but it shows that the Germans were before the War up to the old Hansa tricks, so that herrings which were sold for 12 lbs. a Id. were coming back to us at six for 2s. Before we repeat the process of granting money for pickled herrings to go to Continental ports, some steps should betaken with the railway companies to deliver herrings into the smaller inland towns, and provide refrigerators and freezing plants at the ports.

Above all, there is one other thing which I trust the House will not think I am facetious about. We have lost the art of cooking herrings. I took the trouble to get together a list—and it is at the disposal of the Secretary for Scotland if he likes to have it—of a large number of ways of cooking herrings in this country about 150 years ago. When reference is made to what Lord Leverhulme is doing, I am not going to discuss whether he is right or wrong about Canning or agriculture, but I am very glad that he is going to take up the question of the fisheries, because he may tell us how to put up herrings either in oil or vinegar, in bottles, or with herbs or vegetables, so as to give us a fresh form of food which we can have at a cheap rate, and give an impetus to the herring fishery, which will languish a great deal if we lose our market on the Continent. Out of 3,500,000,000 herrings caught the year before the War in this country, 3,000,000,000 went to Germany and Russia, and at the ridiculous price of about three or four a penny. I see no reason why we should not get a form of curing herring very much like that used for the salmon in North America There is bound to be a glut from time to time, and the Secretary for Scotland will tell us you must have them salted, or the Germans will not otherwise take them. I do not believe the herrings are all used in a wilted form in Germany, many are de-salted, and then turned into delicatessen.

It being Ten of the Clock, MR. SPEAKER, pursuant to Standing Order No. 15, proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary to dispose of the Report of the Resolution under consideration.

Question, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution," put, and agreed to.

Mr. SPEAKER then proceeded to put forthwith the Questions, That this House doth agree with the Committee in the outstanding Resolutions reported in respect of each Class of the Civil Service Estimates, of the Navy Estimates, Excess 1917–18, and the Revenue Departments Estimates, and other outstanding Resolutions severally.