HC Deb 13 July 1933 vol 280 cc1259-306

The first Amendment that I propose to call is that in the name of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams).


May I ask you, Sir, whether we are going to have a general discussion on this Amendment, as is the usual custom? If we could have that, I think we should get on more quickly with the individual Amendments.


I certainly never heard of that being the usual custom on the Report stage. The general discussion will come on the Third Reading.

3.49 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 1, line 8, after the word "order," to insert the words: for a period not exceeding one year. I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be able to make all the points on this Amendment that he had intended to submit in favour of the deletion of the Clause. The Clause enables the President of the Board of Trade, having consulted the appropriate Ministers, to make an Order restricting or regulating the importation of fish. As the Bill now stands the Order restricting imports can be for ever. There is, however, an Amendment on the Order Paper standing in the name of the Minister, because after discussion in Committee the right hon. and gallant Gentleman responded to a plea to limit to some extent the length of time during which any such Order can be operative. His Amendment is to make the time limit of the operation of the Order three years, and our Amendment is to make the time limit for the Order 12 months. We think, in view of all the implications of Clause 1, that a limit of 12 months ought to be sufficient both for the Minister and for the fishing industry.

All hon. Members ought to understand that Clause 1 enables the Minister to make an Order limiting the imports of fish if Orders are in existence relating to Clauses 2, 3 and 4. Under Clause 1 you enable the Minister, in accordance with certain conversations which have taken place with foreign countries, to limit imports by approximately 10 per cent., but Clause 2 enables the Minister to make another Order totally prohibiting fish from being imported from certain areas whether caught by British or foreign fishermen. The net quantities which may be prohibited under any such Order under Clause 2 would amount approximately to 500,000 cwts. That is a considerable proportion of the quantity of fish imported into this country annually. Clause 3 enables the Minister to make a further Order increasing the size of the mesh ostensibly for the purpose of allowing small fish to escape and restricting the quantities the trawlers will bring to the shore. Clause 4 prevents the retail fishmonger from selling fish below a certain size. The net result of an Order operating under Clause 1 will be, first of all, the restriction of imports by 500,000 cwts. under Clause 2. There will be a restriction of imports under Clause 3 of round about 200,000 cwts. Under an Order under Clause 1 there is a further restriction of 200,000 cwts., making 900,000 cwts. in all. On the top of this there has been, during the last two years, a decrease in imports of 500,000 cwts. That is a total of 1,400,000 cwts. which we deliberately prevent reaching these shores. Where would that lead us from the point of view of available supplies, and what effect would it have upon the price paid by retailers? The taking of 1,400,000 cwts. from our 1932 available supplies takes us back exactly to the 1929 quantities. That presumably will satisfy the trawler companies, but how will it affect the consumers of fish? In 1929, according to the Report of the Sea Fishing Commission, retail prices were 109 points above prewar prices. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman will see, therefore, that it is merely making a gift to the trawler owners to continue their inefficiency for a minimum period of three years. We do not think that it is fair to the consumers of fish in this country.

We are willing to concede from these benches that it may be necessary for an Order to be made and for some efficiency to be superimposed upon either the catch- ing, landing, distributing, or selling of fish. If that is necessary, surely an Order restricting the supply for 12 months would be sufficient to enable the trawler companies, who are not all down and out when all the various sides of their businesses are taken into consideration, to deal with the position. Trawler companies are not unlike colliery companies used to be a few years ago. They were making no profits at the pithead, but with regard to the by-products belonging to the same companies, they were found, on further investigation, to be buying small coal at cheap prices and selling the by-products at high prices and making big profits. Here the same sort of thing applies to trawler companies, though not to all. We understand that ice is obtained at very low prices and sold to the trawler companies by the trawler companies trading under another name. They also buy coal and sell it at high prices to trawler companies.

The right hon. and gallant Gentleman and the Government have made up their minds that supplies of all kinds of foodstuffs have to be restricted. There has to be some sort of organised scarcity to produce reasonable prices to the producer. While we remain in Opposition it is our obligation and duty to see that this policy is not carried too far, and that some consideration is given to the consumers of fish in this country. We therefore believe that the Order which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will certainly make should be limited to 12 months. It will not only give the trawler companies time to reorganise their methods of catching and landing fish, but will help them to initiate better distributive methods, in order that the margin between the port and Billingsgate and the retailer shall be narrowed down so that all those who are in any way affected by the catching, distributing and consuming of fish shall not be dealt with harshly. We think that a period of 12 months is ample, and that within that period they ought to be able to put their house in order.

We ought not to expect less from trawler companies than we expect from agriculturists. Almost every hon. Member in the House has now made up his mind that sound marketing is the very basis of good business. That ought also to apply to the trawler companies. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, optimistic as I know him to be, and feeling that the National Government at all times and at any time will always be in a position to repeat a good thing in the years that lie ahead, will respond to this appeal and will by implication intimate to the trawler companies that they have a duty, not only to themselves, but to the Government who are giving them this Bill, and to the consumers of fish. I hope that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will at this late hour see his way to accept the Amendment and so intimate to the trawler companies that during the 12 months they will have to put their 'house in order.

3.59 p.m.


I appeal to the Minister on no account to consider accepting the Amendment. Clause 1 proceeds by the method of restriction, but whether you proceed by the method of restriction of imported supplies or whether you proceed by tariff, the measures you take must obviously lose all efficiency in the direction of doing what the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has indicated if they have no element of permanence and would not enable any industry to improve itself, either to employ more labour or do anything useful in our present national situation. Nothing is so harmful to trade or industry as uncertainty, and if we limit by Statute the time during which these Orders can possibly operate to 12 months, nobody in this industry can possibly know at any time where they stand, and any attempt to reorganise or improve the industry, to employ more trawlers and catch and land more fish, is bound to fail. I understand from the hon. Member's speech—I was not on the Committee—that the Minister has already agreed—and I see it in the Bill—to restrict the Orders to a period of three years. That does give a certain defined period in which there is a probability—it is no higher—that an Order restricting foreign imports will last. It gives some element of stability. It is the absolute want of any stability in the measures that we are taking, the various Orders we are constantly passing here on the recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee, or otherwise, that renders them so ineffective. Therefore, I shall oppose and, I hope, the Minister will oppose, any attempt to cripple the whole of this Measure by limiting the Orders that can be made to a single period of 12 months.

4.2 p.m.


I should like to point out to the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) that this Amendment, if accepted, so far from crippling the Bill, would do nothing of the sort. There is nothing to prevent a fresh Order being made on the expiry of the first Order.


But can anyone in the fishing industry possibly tell whether a new Order will be made or not?


I think my hon. Friend will appreciate what I was going to put before the House, that at the end of 12 months sufficient experience will have been gained to show whether the Order should be continued or repealed, and at the end of that 12 months, if it is necessary to make an Order again, it has to come before the House of Commons. One of the main objects of this Amendment is to ensure that the House of Commons shall be kept in touch with what is being done with regard to the industry, and it is an exaggeration to say that an Amendment of this sort would entirely damage the efficiency of the Bill. I would urge, rather, that it would tend to the efficiency of the Bill, because it would increase the interest which the House of Commons takes in these matters; it would keep it alive to what is being done, and the House would be able, at the end of 12 months' experience, to say whether the Order should be renewed or not. We have a similar Amendment a few lines further down tending in the same direction, but I should like to say that the Minister has gone some way to meet this point, which was raised in Committee. But although he has gone some way, we still think that he might have gone the whole way, and for that reason I beg to support the Amendment.

4.5 p.m.


The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) has shown a fear which I do not think he need have. After all, I think it is recognised that the Government are going to run their full term. We are asking for a trial period of 12 months for this proposal, and if it be proved that this is a good thing for the fishing industry, we shall have the same form of Government that we have now, and the Order can be renewed. The House will have been watching the whole time what has been taking place. If there is an Order keeping 70,000 tons of fish off the market, it may create such a position that we have not sufficient fish to satisfy our people. If, however, it is shown that things have gone smoothly, the objection felt on these benches will be removed, and it will satisfy hon. Members opposite. Three years is a long period in a matter of this kind, and we on these benches are afraid that it may upset the whole of the industry. If it does not, then at the end of 12 months the Government can come forward and say that our fears are not justified, that the Order has worked smoothly, and therefore they ask for a renewal of the Order. I think the Amendment is quite a reasonable one, as it merely asks for sufficient time in which to judge whether the proposal is a good thing or not.

4.7 p.m.


The object of this Bill, the principle of which has, of course, already been passed by the Second Reading, and the details of which were discussed in Committee, is to help the sea-fishing industry. No one in any part of the House has affirmed that all is well with that industry. It, is common ground that until, at all events, the provisions of this Bill became public property, there was not a single trawler under construction. The time taken to build a trawler is somewhere between nine and 12 months. The point made by the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) is quite right, that you cannot help the industry if you introduce a new element of disquiet. To suggest that there may be some regulation of foreign landings, but that in 12 months' time that provision might cease to apply, is not an encouragement which would induce the building of trawlers and the reorganisation of the industry. This is a matter which is not unconnected with trading agreements. The period of the trading agreements is three years. As it takes nearly 12 months to build a trawler, as the trade agreements are for three years, and as the period of 12 months is not sufficient to bring stability or confidence into the industry, it follows that the Government cannot accept this Amendment, and that we must ask the House to reject it.

I would call the attention of the House to the fact that under Clause 7 (1), the Board of Trade has power to vary or revoke an Order under exactly similar conditions that it has power to make one. There is, therefore, a complete control over an Order which is made. The pledge given during the Committee stage was that an Order when once made should not be left to run for an indeterminate period, and we have given power to the Department to review that Order. In accordance with that pledge, and very fully fulfilling it, there is a Government Amendment on the Order Paper, in page 2, line 24, to which we shall come shortly. Under that Amendment, an Order under Clause 1 ceases to have effect at the end of three years, unless there is an affirmative vote of Parliament approving its continuation. We have therefore, the point well under observation that there should be control of these Orders. There being a Government Amendment which fully fulfils the pledge that was given, and having regard to the facts I have mentioned, I think the House would not be doing the industry a service at all if it endeavoured to prescribe for an Order made restricting foreign landings a period so short as a year, or anything indeed less than the three years.

4.10 p.m.


I am, indeed, astonished at the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. He told us that the Board of Trade may be entrusted with the power of revoking an Order within the next three years, but that the House of Commons must on no account be given the same power.


That is not right. The Board of Trade has power to lay an Order before the House, which is quite a different thing.


We want to ensure that it shall not be left, to the discretion of the Board of Trade, but that Parliament itself shall say whether or not an Order shall come to an end. The only way to safeguard the authority of Parliament in this matter is to pass this Amendment.

There is another astonishing feature of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. We are all agreed with him that the position of the fishing industry is very serious. This is not the time, as you, Mr. Speaker, pointed out to me, to discuss the wider aspects of the question whether or not this Bill does go to the root causes of the distress of the fishing industry in general, and of the most depressed sections of the fishing industry in particular. I think it does not, but we may have an opportunity later of discussing that. Nor do we think that this method of restriction is the right kind of way to cure these evils; but we understood that it was upon the theory of restriction that the Government were proceeding. More than that, the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture, in moving the Second Reading, was very scrupulous to point out that this method of restriction would apply not only to foreign imports but also to landings in British vessels. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman made it clear that if it did not apply equally to landings from British vessels, it would be inconsistent with the International Convention for the Abolition of Import and Export Prohibitions to which this country is a party. die said that under that International Convention: the following prohibitions or restrictions were specified as not prohibited by the Convention, namely: 'Prohibitions or restrictions designed to extend to foreign products the régime established within the country in respect of production of, trade in, and transport and consumption of native products of the same kind.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1933; col. 1355, Vol. 279.] That means to say, that if we are under that Convention to prohibit the landing of foreign-caught fish, we are bound under that Convention to subject our own fishermen to the same régime, and we were told that that was in fact what was intended by the Government. Indeed, my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) interrupted the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman on this very point, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman replied: The first three Orders restrict, and drastically restrict, the supply of fish to the markets by the British fishermen."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1933; col. 1357, Vol. 279.] Now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade tells us that on the basis of these Orders, new trawlers are to be constructed immediately, and the catching power improved. If that means anything at all it can only mean one of two things, either that the régime is not going to apply equally to the British fishermen and the foreign fishermen and that the landings from British ships are not to be restricted in the same measure as the landings from foreign ships, or it will be done at the expense of other sections of the fishing industry, such as the inshore fishermen. The reasons given by the Parliamentary Secretary for rejecting the Amendment are inadequate and leave us no option but to support the Amendment.

4.16 p.m.


I regret that the Government have declined to accept the Amendment, which is a very reasonable one. We moved it in Committee and they adopted the same stubborn attitude. The hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) has come to the conclusion that this Bill will mean the employment of more men in sea fishing, and also the employment of more trawlers. If he will look at the memorandum printed on the first page of the Bill he will see that that is not intended. The intention deliberately is to reduce as far as possible the amount of fish coming into this country, in order to improve the conditions of those already employed. The Parliamentary Secretary suggested that there would be new construction of trawlers consequent upon the passage of the Bill, but the information I have goes to show that whatever happens under this Bill it will be very difficult to employ all the trawlers now in existence. Let me read a letter which I have received. I am not now speaking of Grimsby, but of Fleetwood. Fleetwood is in Lancashire. This is the situation in Fleetwood: A good proportion of the fleet, varying from one-fourth to one-third has been laid up, some more or less permanently and others temporarily. The highest number has been about 50. About half the space of the old dock is taken up by these boats. which is a partial hindrance to the expeditious movement of sailing vessels. Therefore, it does not appear to me that there will be any new trawlers required in Fleetwood for some time, even if foreign fish is prevented from coming into this country. Moreover, there is one provision in the Bill which makes it clear that our own trawlers shall not fish in certain seas for three months in the year. Therefore, the point made by the hon. Baronet will not hold good. It is not the intention of the Government to do anything to extend the number of trawlers or to find more work for men in sea fishing. What they intend to do is to reduce the amount of fish coming into the country in order, so they say, to improve the quality of the fish already coming in and to improve the conditions of the trawler men who are already employed.

The main reason why we are moving the Amendment is that since the War there has been a great increase in the powers of Departments of State, and some of us are becoming alarmed about it. In connection with almost every Bill that is brought before this Parliament Departments seek to proceed by regulations or orders without reference to the House of Commons. It is all very well the Minister of Agriculture smiling contemptuously when he is in office, but he must remember that what he does to-day in securing orders without reference to Parliament may be a very good precedent for us when we are sitting on the Government Benches. We are coming there in due course. There can be no doubt about that, especially when the consumers of fish see that the deliberate intention of this Government is to restrict the supply of fish. We shall divide on the Amendment, because we think that Parliament ought to take greater interest in sea fishing than it does. Our Amendment would give it an opportunity at least once a year to review these Orders.

The problem of the housewife in the working-class home to-day is to make ends meet in regard to the cost of fish and other food, and that is a matter of grave concern. We should like the opportunity to be given to Parliament to review the position at the end of each year. If the result of the Bill has been to raise the price of fish, then Parliament will be able to say: "We will have no more of it." If, on the other hand, Parliament finds that the supply of fish has not been so restricted and that the price has not been adversely affected, it can say that it will continue the Act for another year. These are the arguments in favour of the Amendment and I hope the Minister will look at it more kindly than hitherto.

Division No. 264.] AYES. [4.22 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Janner, Barnett Rea, Waiter Russell
Banfield, John William Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Batey, Joseph Kirkwood, David Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thnese)
Buchanan, George Lawson, John James Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Leonard, William Thorne, William James
Edwards, Charles Logan, David Gilbert Tinker, John Joseph
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Lunn, William Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) McEntee, Valentino L. Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Greaten, David Rees (Glamorgan) Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Grundy, Thomas W. Mainwaring, William Henry Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Hamilton, Sir R. W. (Orkney & Ztl'nd) Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)
Harris, Sir Percy Maxton, James TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Holdsworth, Herbert Parkinson, John Allen Mr. C. Macdonald and Mr. Groves
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey MacAndrew, Lieut-Col. C. G.(Partick)
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Elliston, Captain George Sampson McConnell, Sir Joseph
Allen, Lt-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.) Emmott, Charles E. G. C. McKie, John Hamilton
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Emrys-Evans, P. V. Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Entwistle, Cyril Fullard McLean, Major Sir Alan
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)
Astbory, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blk'pool) Maitland, Adam
Balllie, Sir Adrian W. M. Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Manningharn-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Everard, W. Lindsay Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Barclay-Harvey, C. M, Palle, Sir Bertram G. Marsden, Commander Arthur
Bateman, A. L. Fox, Sir Gifford Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Fraser, Captain Ian Milne, Charles
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Fuller, Captain A. G. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Rena, Sir Arthur Shirley Ganzoni, Sir John Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)
Blindell, James Gluckstein, Louis Haife Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
Boulton, W. W. Goff, Sir Park Morrison, William Shephard
Bower, Lieut-Com. Robert Tatton Gower, Sir Robert Moss, Captain H. J.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'ri'd, N.) Muirhead, Major A. J.
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hilisborough) Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Macro, Patrick
Broadbent. Colonel John Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grigg, Sir Edward Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Grimston, R. V. Newton, Sir Douglas George C.
Buchan, John Gritten, W. G. Howard Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Peteref'ld)
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Guy, J. C. Morrison North, Edward T.
Burghley, Lord Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Pearson, William G.
Burgh, Dr. Edward Leslie Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford) Peat, Charles U.
Burnett, John George Hanbury, Cecil Perkins, Walter R. D.
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Hanley, Dennis A. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Harbord, Arthur Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham) Hartingtan, Marquess of Pike, Cecil F.
Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. Sir J.A. (Birm., W) Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n) Potter, John
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Pybus, Percy John
Christe, James Archibald Heilgers, Captain F. F. A. Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.
Cherry, Reginald George Hornby, Frank Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Clydesdale, Marquess of Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S. Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Cobb, Sir Cyril Horsbrugh, Florence Rankin, Robert
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.) Rawson, Sir Cooper
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Ray, Sir William
Conant, R. J. E. Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg) Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham
Cook. Thomas A. Hurd, Sir Percy Reid, William Allan (Derby)
Cooke. Douglas Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.) Rantoul, Sir Gervals S.
Cooper, A. Duff Jesson, Major Thomas E. Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.
Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Joel, Dudley J. Barnato Rosbotham, Sir Thomas
Cowan. D. M. Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan) Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Runge, Norah Cecil
Crossley, A. C. Kerr, Hamilton W. Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Cruddos, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Knight, Holford Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)
Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Lambert, Rt. Hon. George Salmon, Sir Isidore
Donner, P. W. Law, Sir Alfred Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
Doran, Edward Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
Drewe, Cedric Leckie, J. A. Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
Duggan, Hubert John Lees-Jones, John Savery, Samuel Servington
Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington, N.) Levy, Thomas Scone, Lord
Dunglass, Lord Lloyd, Geoffrey Selley, Harry R.
Edmondson, Major A. J. Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander Shute, Colonel J. J.
Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Lymington, Viscount Skelton, Archibald Noel

Question put, "That those words be there inserted in the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 39; Noes, 211.

Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Klnc'dine, C.) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Smith-Carington, Neville W. Titchfield, Major the Marquees of Wills, Wilfrid D.
Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.) Wilson, Lt-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Soper, Richard Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford) Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Touche, Gordon Cosmo Wise, Alfred R.
Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Turton, Robert Hugh Wormer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland) Wallace, John (Dunfermline) Womersley, Walter James
Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.) Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)
Strauss, Edward A. Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Watt, Captain George Sloven H. TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart Wedderburn, Henry James Serymgeour Sir George Penny and Mr.
Summersby, Charles H. Weymouth, Viscount Womersley.
Sutcliffe, Harold Whyte, Jardine Bell

4.30 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 1, line 11, to leave out the words the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands. We had some discussion on this matter in the Committee stage and the Minister promised that he would look into it again. The right hon. Gentleman originally omitted these islands and then changed his mind. He must now have come to the conclusion that his original thoughts were best. The defence that he made in Committee covered a good deal of ground, but he was not so convincing as I have heard him. I will not say anything about the extraordinary position which these islands hold as regards taxation, but I would point out that although we are not importing any considerable amount of fish from the Channel Islands there is a serious danger that the same kind of thing will happen in regard to fish from the Channel Islands as in regard to other products. The object of the Bill, in the main, is to give work and wages to Britishers. At the present time the vast amount of employment in the Channel Islands goes to people of France. I do not quarrel with anything that the Channel Islands have done, and I apologise to any hon. Member who has a close connection with them that the Government have been so ill advised in regard to what I believe are more correctly called the Norman Islands.

This is one of the occasions when it would be much better if we did not extend to these islands the privileges which we are giving to our own people. The first argument in favour of extension used by the Minister was that the Channel Islands are part of the King's Dominions. That is fairly obvious, but there are other parts of the King's Dominions which are not in the Bill. Southern Ireland for instance. Although there may not be a large amount of fish coming from the Channel Islands, if the Minister is afraid of any such thing happening it would be wise to keep them out, because some other parts of the King's Dominions might also claim to come in. The Minister also said that this is a very delicate constitutional question. I quite agree, it is. I am not quite sure how the Channel Islands are affected by the netting Clause. That is a most delicate constitutional question. If you leave them out of the Bill it cannot arise. But if you bring them in and they are affected by the netting Clause it means that you will have to enforce the Clause, and you will find it a very difficult question to try and enforce that Clause on the Channel Islands. It is a difficulty which the Minister might well wish to avoid. If they do not come in under the netting Clause his position is still more difficult. You are giving to the islands all the privileges which are given to our own people, but you are not able to enforce them now or in the future, and we must take a long view not a short one-year view. H you give them an additional privilege to those which they have already the difficulty in two or three years time might be very great.

Now I come to the third reason given by the Minister. I pointed out that you may have the ships manned by Frenchmen but registered as British, and quite correct; and the Minister pointed out that that raised a very much wider question and might be one of great difficulty. He also said that if it did arise Parliament would deal with it. If this raises big and delicate questions you had better leave them out and avoid the difficulty, and you would not be in the position that in a year or two the Government would have to deal with it. I am doing what I am always doing for the Government, I fear the difficulty of the grievance becoming so big that it may be very difficult for the Minister to deal with. From that point of view it might be wise for the Minister of Agriculture to accept the Amendment. Having dealt with the Minister's reasons for putting these Islands in I have tried to find a real reason, and I have discovered that someone has seen imported from the Channel Islands a form of fish known as Finnan Haddock. These come from somewhere near the East Coast, the best, of course, come from Grimsby, where you have a special kind; and Grimsby is founded from Brixham in my constituency. I ask the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) to persuade the Minister to yield on this point. We feel it very much in the West country, and there is no chance of anyone being able to capture that market from the East Coast.

The chief argument in favour of the position I take up has been kindly and graciously granted to me by the Minister of Agriculture himself, in another speech. There is nothing like going to your adversaries in order to get your best points. Two nights ago, in a brilliant speech at the end of the Debate on agriculture, he pointed out the appalling consequences which have happened in country districts owing to high taxation and how the agricultural industry has been hit again and again. But there is exactly the same shortage of money, from the same cause, in the fishing industry. If it affects agriculture we know that it also affects the fishing industry. There are many small villages right round the coast of England which are hard hit by heavy taxation, and you are going out of your way to give a chance to people to bring up an industry in a place which is not heavily taxed and then to come over and compete with our own people. I ask the Minister to realise that not very much has been done for the smaller industries in the West Country and to give way on this matter. We shall then be able to look with more enthusiasm on the Bill. I hope he will see his way to go back to his original position.

Commander MARSDEN

I beg to second the Amendment.

4.40 p.m.


I have listened to the speech of my friend the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) with a great deal of interest, more particularly when he was speaking of the Channel Islands. He spoke of "our own people," and did not seem to regard the inhabitants of the Channel Islands as our own people. I would really like to ask him who his own people are?


First, they are the people in my own constituency, and then the people of the country who are represented in the House of Commons.


King John and Queen Elizabeth, who was a great Queen and knew what she was doing, gave a charter to the Norman Islands, as the Channel Islands are more properly called, ordering that the people should be treated not as strangers but as native Englishmen non tangtunn alienigenae sed tanquam indigenae I see no reason why the people of the Norman Islands are not as much our own people as the people of Brixham—both a seafaring people. I see no particular reason for his argument to exclude these Islands from the Bill. If it is a case of looking ahead, nothing that this Parliament does will bind the next and, therefore, if it is found necessary to amend the law an amendment will no doubt be made, and the Minister of Agriculture will have no feeling of shyness in doing so. The people of the Norman Islands proved their loyalty to their King and Duke for hundreds of years in the last War. Jersey of her own free will sent 17½ per cent. of her population to the War, and if she had done no more that would entitle her to receive fair treatment from this House. If she manages her affairs so well that she does not require a 5s. Income Tax, why should she be reproached? She does not ask for subsidies or doles, and as for Income Tax, every man living in Jersey pays full Income Tax on the dividends received through London. The further idea that we would be flooded with French fish coming from the Norman Islands is the sort of thing that I would not expect to have been said by the hon. Member. The ships of the Norman Islands are carefully looked after and no French boat could possibly bring here fish caught in those waters. If she had any fish caught in territorial waters, she could not possibly bring them to this country as a Channel Islands registered fishing boat.

4.46 p.m.


As one who is also descended from Channel Islands ancestry, in Guernsey, I would support my hon. Friend who has just spoken in opposition to the Amendment. I do not know whether this Bill has, any great value, but as far as it has any at all I think that the Channel Islands, part of the ancient Duchy of Normandy which conquered these islands at the time of William the Conqueror, ought to be entitled to any benefits that may result from the passing of the Bill. Small as those benefits may be, I wish to join in resisting the Amendment which has been so unfortunately proposed by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams).

4.47 p.m.


I want to put forward one practical disadvantage in refusing this Amendment. In Clause 1, after the words "United Kingdom" there appear the words "the Isle of Man or any of the Channel Islands," so that they are to have the benefit of being regarded as British fishing boats so far as any advantages provided in Clause 1 are concerned. The Clause restricts the landing on these shores of fish which are not caught by British fishing boats. But when we come to Clause 3 we find that it restricts the size of mesh of nets, and we find there mentioned fishing boats registered in the United Kingdom only, without any reference to the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man. The hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. islander) said he wanted the Channel Islands to have the advantages of this Bill, but what he really wants is that the Channel Islands should have the advantages of Clause 1 and be exempt from any of the restrictions under Clause 3. That is really an impossible thing. Surely it is very unusual, if not unprecedented, so to construct a Measure that it confines the advantage under one Clause to a certain part of the Dominions of His Majesty, while another Clause in the same Bill does not apply to that same part of the Dominions, in this case the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. We should either strike out the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man altogether or put them into the whole Bill.

4.49 p.m.


I do not want the House to be under any misapprehension. There are on the Paper Government Amendments which propose to apply the remaining Clauses of the Bill to the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. The point raised by the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) is, therefore, fully met by Government Amendments. At any rate I can give him the assurance that the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are t be dealt with on the same footing throughout. A substantial point was raised by the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), as to whether these islands should be included at all. We are all naturally sensitive of nationality, and those of us who have had occasion constantly to try in documents to define these islands—I mean the United Kingdom and the adjacent islands—have been struck with the difficulty of finding any one expression which includes Scotland, the Orkneys and Shetlands, the Western Isles, England, Wales, the Isle of Wight, Anglesey, Northern and Southern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.


Great and Little Cum-brae.


If the hon. Member for Torquay looks at Section 18 of the Interpretation Act he will find the words "British Islands," which include the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. When this Bill was drafted and it was desired to make a difference between a United Kingdom vessel and a foreign vessel, the expression used in the first draft was "United Kingdom." There seems to be no reason why the benefit given to a fishing vessel of one of the home ports should not be given to the vessel of that territory which is really part, of the larger aggregate. The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man clearly come within that description. There are no practical difficulties. It has not been found that the registration of vessels in the Channel Islands has caused any difficulty. In practice there is no fish landed from the Channel Islands in the ports of this country. The tendency is rather the reverse. But, as has been said, for the purpose of symmetry it is better that these outlying islands should be included, as they logically are, in the greater unit of the United Kingdom, which is really the area we are intending to describe.


Why not the whole of Southern Ireland as well?


The answer is very simple. Southern Ireland is no longer part of the United Kingdom. It is a separate Dominion, exactly the same as our self-governing Dominions overseas.


But the Channel Islands have a separate legislature.


There is no comparison at all. We shall find, when we come to deal with Government Amendments later, that Orders in Council are made by the King in Council to deal with these matters, in applying them to the Channel Islands. I was hoping that the explanation I have given was historically complete enough to satisfy the hon. Member who moved the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

4.54 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 9, to leave out the words "three years," and to insert instead thereof the words "one year."

I appreciate the main controversial point contained in this Clause, as stated by the Minister of Agriculture himself. I think this Amendment raises it. I am prepared to admit that the period of time is very important from the point of view of the owners. They have interests and relationships that have grown up, perhaps not in a form that can be called proper organisation, and they will have in some way and some measure to alter those relationships. While it is so important for the owner to have time, it is also a question of great importance to the consumers of fish. Because of that we are of opinion that the three years which is to be given is far too long for the purpose intended in this Sub-section. In view of the fact that owners are expected to take some action that will display their willingness to organise themselves in a better way, we think that to give that emphasis they should be allowed one year and not three years. Three years would permit far too much latitude, and would perhaps allow certain sections who are in opposition to any reorganisation too much time to act on any tactics that are designed to kill the purpose of the Bill.

It cannot be said that the defects in this branch of the industry are not known.

They must be known to the officials of the Board of Agriculture and Fisheries, who present a report from time to time. There has been an investigation into the industry, and the Fishing Industry Committee has presented a report which Members of the House have seen. In view of the fact that these two governmental sources and the industry itself are quite well aware of the things that have to be modified or altered, one year is sufficient time to allow. I am advised that there are statistical reports in existence showing, with regard to foreign fish, that advantage is being taken of reduced competition already. That is a sufficient advantage to give. If at the end of one year no steps have been taken by those in the industry, this House should be given an opportunity of having some say in the matter and of deciding whether any further protection should be afforded.


I beg to second the Amendment.

4.58 p.m.


I always welcome the compliment when anyone calls me an optimist. If I understand this Amendment properly the hon. Member who moved it must be an optimist. His suggestion is that within one year the Sea-fish Commission will have been appointed, will have got to business, will have reviewed the entire industry, will have made a comprehensive report, and that adequate time will have been allowed the Government Departments to consider that report and to frame action upon it. Is it reasonable to think that all that can happen in 12 months? It does not seem to me to be practical business at all. The Mover of the Amendment framed his speech as if the Amendment would give the House a greater review. But surely o he has not fully appreciated the effect of the words he is seeking to introduce. What he is seeking to do is to say that at the end of one year from the passage of this Bill no Order shall have any effect unless the Board of Trade have had regard to the Sea-fish Commission's report and various other matters detailed in Sub-section (4) of Clause 1. That means that the Order would cease to apply Surely that is a restrictive effect that the hon. Member would not wish. Great safeguards to consumers, great safeguards to the industry generally, are incorporated by having a Sea-fish Commission.

The hon. Member and his friends attach great value to the commission and its report, and rightly so, and we desire full advantage to be taken of the existence of the commission and all its powers of review and suggestion. Surely a report from such a commission will require very careful consideration. It seems to me apparent that a period of one year is quite inadequate for the commission to have functioned and for the necessary report to have been received. I ask the House, therefore, to reject the Amendment.

5.0 p.m.


The Parliamentary Secretary always makes out a marvellous case and he is sometimes on the borderline of convincing even me. The difficulty about him is that unfortunately he always convinces himself. He has said that if this Amendment were accepted any Order in existence at the end of 12 months would have to lapse. He said that if all the investigations had not been carried out in that time by the Sea-fish Commission, and all the results of their inquiries, their recommendations and their suggestions had not been carried into effect all those Orders would cease to operate. The hon. Gentleman knows that nothing of the kind would take place, and I hope that no hon. Member will take his word on that score. What does the Bill state? After the end of the period of three years … no order … shall be made … unless it appears … that there have been or are being taken all such steps … as are practicable and necessary for the efficient organisation of that branch of the sea fishing industry. There is no requirement that all the recommendations must have been applied or that within 12 months the commission must have completed all its inquiries into conditions at the ports, methods of landing, methods of auctioning, methods of distribution and all the various difficulties which arise in connection with fish between the fishing ports and the fishmonger's shop. The Parliamentary Secretary partly misleads the House when he suggests that unless all these things are done and all these recommendations are applied, an Order would fall. It would not do anything of the kind. All that is expected under the Amendment is that the commission shall report within 12 months and that the trawling section shall have expressed themselves as being willing to give effect to some of the recommendations. The Parliamentary Secretary's speech seemed to imply that nobody had ever looked into the condition of the fishing industry in the whole history of this country, that nobody knew anything about it, that this investigation would start de novo and that we should have to go through these matters from A to Z before it was possible to express any opinion upon the catching, landing, distribution and sale of fish under present conditions. But the committee which reported in 1932 received information and advice and guidance from experts both inside and outside the industry. Let me give one or two of the points which were submitted to them.


Will the hon. Gentleman give their recommendations?


I am not here to give recommendations except a recommendation to hon. Members not to take the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary. I am always on safe ground when I make that recommendation. Here is some of the information which was supplied to that Committee and it may be information to the Parliamentary Secretary himself. Referring to the slipshod individualistic methods followed by the trawler companies and the individual owners it was suggested that sailings ought to be planned in order to ensure regular landings of fish, so that the market should not be glutted on some days and short on other days. It was pointed out that the approximate number of vessels due on any one particular date should be known in advance, and that central planning would ensure the definite sweeping of the seas on prearranged lines, a particular area being allocated to a particular trawler. I could read sheet after sheet of recommendations of that kind made by experts who know all that there is to be known about the catching, landing, distribution and sale of fish.

Therefore, the Sea-fish Commission will not start de novo. A good deal of evidence is already available and with this information at their disposal, all they have to do is to express themselves as to whether they think that this or that recommendation would be beneficial or oherwise to the industry. It would be possible to put into operation as quickly as possible consistent with not disturbing the industry the recommendations which have already been reached and which are considered desirable. It should be remembered that we are calling upon the consumers of fish in this country to pay a considerable sum in excess prices during this intervening period and I suggest that the advice of the Parliamentary Secretary as to the duration of the period should be ignored even by his own supporters, though I hate to inculcate disloyalty among the supporters of the Government. I should of course like to see the Government beaten on one of these issues which affect consumers, but I suggest that in this matter the Government have not got a case and that the Amendment ought to be accepted, first in order to inspire the Commission into immediate activity; secondly to inspire the white fish industry to respond to the overtures which the Government are making, and thirdly, to show that we appreciate the fact that the consumer will be obliged to pay more during the period of reorganisation.

5.8 p.m.


It is only right that one or two comments should be made on the very interesting speech—full of information carefully collected by Transport House—to which we have just listened. It is the fashion now to slobber over our opponents but I must say that we have all listened with great respect to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I share some of his feelings upon this matter. The Parliamentary Secretary indicated that this Commission might take some time to report. I have a great dislike to all Commissions as a general policy. I think they are a means (of wasting time, They work round and round and expend the taxpayers' money and I think we are justified on this occasion on asking how long this Commission are likely to take to go into the question. A lot of people are very interested to know exactly what sort of Commission it is to be and I think the Government ought to give us a little more light and information on the subject after the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley.

I do not think however that I can support the Amendment as it stands. It goes too far. I might consider it more favourably if it had proposed a period of two years instead of one year. Whether the Opposition would like to change it or not on that account I do not know. I do not say that I would be willing to go as far as the two years but I might consider it favourably. No one wishes more than I do to see the reorganisation of the industry but an industry is not organised in this manner once and for all. Industries have to be subject to perpetual reorganisation. It is a continuous process and when the Parliamentary Secretary said something about reorganising the industry in three years I think, with all due respect, he was proposing something which is impossible. You may begin a stage of reorganisation and even complete it, but you cannot reorganise an industry permanently and I do not want any Member of this House to be misled into the belief that Government reorganisation of any industry, whether agriculture or fishing, simply means that there is to be one turn of the wheel and that the whole thing can thereafter be left to carry on by itself. I do not think the Government intend to mislead any hon. Members but I think they might explain the position a little more fully.

There is another point which was mentioned by the Mover of the Amendment and by the last speaker and which I have no doubt would also have been dealt with by the Seconder of the Amendment if the brief had been available. That is the position of the consumer. The consumer represents a very important factor and we have to consider whether in three years or in one year we can get the fishing industry into a state in which the interests of the consumer will be served. The Socialist party are always talking about the consumer but in this matter he appears to have been left out even by the Liberals. I suppose that is because they are in process of conversion to an extreme policy of tariffs and quotas and things of that kind. I hope that the Government will stand by the words in the Bill. We are stating here that within a certain time a certain movement is to take place in this industry and if we cut down that period too much we are not giving the various bodies concerned sufficient time in which to do their work. At the same time I hope that the work of this Commission will be accelerated as far as possible. We have a live Minister, one who is liable to get things done and I hope that he will inspire this commission with his own spirit so that they will report in a comparatively short time.

As has been pointed out a great amount of the information is already assembled and while the Minister does not seem to think that appeals from those who generally support the Government are worthy of consideration, I would appeal to him to expedite as far as he can the work of this commission. I hope it will not be one of those commissions which wanders slowly about the country collecting information, then sifts and re-sifts that information, and finally presents it to us in the form of a long, dull book. We all hope that its work will be as bright and snappy as the Minister can make it. I notice that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) is anxious to intervene. I suppose he is coming to the rescue of the Government who always welcome his support. I hope on this occasion he will join me in urging the Government to accelerate the application of such of the recommendations as he considers desirable. As he is a Scot I put in the proviso that I do not want to hurry matters in such a way that the report will not be a complete report. I ask the Government not to accept this Amendment, however well-disposed they may be feeling towards the Opposition.

5.15 p.m.


My object is not so much to support the Government as to support the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams). The point of substance is to make sure that this Commission will get to work quickly and report quickly. I know there is a great feeling among fishermen in Scotland—and it has been expressed by my hon and gallant Friend in this House—that we have had already a great many Commissions on this industry, that there is a mass of information at the disposal of the two Government Departments which deal with these questions, and that action ought to be taken quickly. I do not altogether share that view. I am glad that the Government have brought in Clause 5 of this Bill, but I am sure that it would be a great disappointment to the fishing industry, and in particular to the inshore fishermen, who stand to gain most by marketing reforms, if we had to wait three years for any report from this Commission. I would refer hon. Members to paragraphs 82 to 92 of the Scott Commission Report which emphasise the great importance of this question of marketing, particularly from the point of view of the inshore fishermen, and I therefore ask the Government whether they cannot give us some assurance that the Commission will be asked to give an interim report on this particular question of marketing, to which we attach great importance, dealing in particular with those questions that are raised in the Scott Committee Report. I feel sure that if the Government were in a position to give the House such an assurance, it would influence the attitude of a number of us towards this Amendment.

5.17 p.m.


There is a principle in this Amendment which is worthy of far more serious consideration than the Parliamentary Secretary gave to it. If I may say so, for the information of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), I am not on this occasion speaking from a brief, and even if I were, I should have no payment for it. I am at a loss to understand the hon. Member for Torquay, who apparently complains because the Government Front Bench treat the Opposition with ordinary courtesy. I have not noticed any particular disposition on the part of Ministers to slobber over us, to use the eloquent phrase of the hon. Member. The whole House will agree, I think, that these measures for creating an artificial shortage in this or that commodity cannot be looked upon with any particular favour unless at the same time they carry with them a reorganisation of the industry concerned. One is driven to the conclusion sometimes that in the vast majority of cases all that the industries come to the Government for are quotas, or restrictions, or anything that will put up the price of their particular commodity, but they are quite content, after giving some vague promises, to leave reorganisation to the very distant future.

The object of the Amendment is to ensure that in this industry, which probably as much as any industry requires reorganisation, there shall be a move in that direction as early as possible. I think that all the terrible things that the Parliamentary Secretary said would happen if the Amendment were carried are very unlikely to happen. The Clause itself says that the industry has to satisfy the Board of Trade that steps are being taken or will be taken; in other words, that the industry must show some obvious sincerity that it is willing to reorganise. The hon. Member for Torquay, having had his gibe at the Opposition, had another one at the benches opposite and suggested that they had laid aside all consideration for the consumer. Among other things that must be taken into consideration by the Board of Trade are the interests of the consumers of sea fish, and I am satisfied that if this Measure achieves what it sets out to do, in all probability there will be a very definite increase in the price of fish. If it is necessary in the interests of those engaged in the industry that prices shall rise, surely three years is a very long period to wait in order to see the effects of this provision, during which time the consumer may be very seriously prejudiced. One cannot but remember that the provision of cheap fish to vast numbers of the working classes is almost a necessity, and anything which tends to make fish dearer, with no redress for three years, seems to be totally unnecessary.

I was interested to notice that the hon. Member for Torquay, after agreeing with all the arguments put forward by my hon. Friend, eventually came to the conclusion that he was unable to support the Amendment and suggested that the period might be altered to two years. While we are very glad of the support of a good many people, we are pleased to be without the support of some hon. Members, and on this occasion we must decline his support without any thanks whatever. I think the information which the Parliamentary Secretary gave us was hardly fair. It gave the impression that the effect of accepting the Amendment would be far more serious than it, would be in fact. I think the effect would be to hurry up the reorganisation of the industry and to satisfy his Department and the Ministry of Agriculture that the reorganisation was proceeding. It has been said over and over again that there is a terrible lag between the prices paid to the fishermen and the prices paid by the consumers, and it is there that some reorganisation is absolutely necessary.

If it should be argued that the effect of inserting one year would be to create the period of uncertainty, I would not be impressed by that argument, because I am satisfied that if during the one year a definite foundation was laid for the reorganisation of the industry, all parties in this House would support the continuance of this Measure and would wish well to the industry. It is because we on these benches fear that, the industry is only concerned about raising the prices that we think that to allow them to go on for three years without some more definite guarantee of the reorganisation of the industry would be wrong. I appeal to the Parliamentary Secretary to see whether he cannot, after all, meet us. We are not moving the Amendment in any carping spirit of criticism, but with the simple desire to do the best we can for the industry, and we believe that the reorganisation of the industry is the best thing that can be done for it.

6.26 p.m.


I am sure the House will accept the assurance of the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. Banfield) that there is no carping spirit on the part of the Opposition, but I beg them to realise what would be the practical results of the Amendment, and I feel that they do not quite appreciate the complete truth of the position taken up by the Parliamentary Secretary. The Opposition say that three years is too long, but I am told by those in the fishing industry, who ought to know, that three years is too short a time in which to carry through the complete, radical reorganisation that is needed in the marketing of this product. The Minister asks for three years in which to carry through these measures, and we are now o asked to make it one year. The result of the Amendment, if it were carried, would be that no Order could be made after one year unless there had been or were being taken "such steps"—


Some steps.


No. It says: all such steps … as are practicable and necessary for the efficient reorganisation and so on. It is not just a step or two steps, but all steps. Hon. Members are asking the Commission, first of all, to report in one year, which is asking a great deal more than is reasonable; and, further, they are asking the industry within the same period completely to reorganise itself, or at any rate sufficiently so to satisfy my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade and his colleagues. That is not, in my opinion, a reasonable view, and I hope the House, and particularly my hon. 'Friends on the Liberal benches, who, I regret, voted for the last Amendment, will not be overcome either by the dulcet tones of the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) or the confused blandishments of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), who never seems to realise quite where he is. At the beginning of his speech he had one foot in the Channel Islands and the other in Torquay. Later, he changed his position. He began by supporting an Amendment for two years, and finished up by supporting an Amendment for one year. For a while he was all against the Commission. He wanted a short, sharp, snappy report, but he finished up by saying that he wanted a thorough piece of work. That kind of support does not seem to me sufficient to warrant this House limiting, and indeed making impossible, the proper carrying through of the Minister's duty under this Measure.

5.30 p.m.


It is only with the leave of the House that I can say a word in reply to the arguments that have been addressed to the House. It is proposed to set up the Sea-fish Commission and to ask it to commence investigations at once. The right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) said that he hoped the Commission would make an interim report. We hope for something much better than an interim report. We are proposing interim action in the immediate restriction of landing, the selection of the size of fish, and the alteration of the mesh. This action is far better than any interim report of any commission.


I suggested an interim report on marketing.


The Commission's review of marketing will commence at once. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred to the Report of the Fishing Industry Committee. I am glad that he did so, but he did not respond to my invitation to read the pieces which I had underlined, and that does not convince me that he is unaware of them. The hon. Member uses that report, anti the deductions contained in it as an argument that, the Sea-fish Commission might make their report within 12 months. It is of interest to the House to know that the Fishing Industry Committee took over two years to make their report. They were appointed on the 25th October, 1929, and their report is dated December, 1931 So far from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland being accurate in suggesting that there is such a plethora of information at the disposal of Government Departments through successive reports that action is now possible, there appears in paragraph 133 of the Scott Report this comment: Our own experience in the course of our inquiry confirms the need for the proposed investigation, since we have found it difficult to obtain an accurate picture of the fish-marketing structure as a whole. On the statistical side, in particular, we have found serious gaps in the information available with regard to marketing, the deficiencies there contrasting sharply with the abundance of statistical data relating to production and similar matters.


I said that it was the feeling of the fishermen that with all these reports and all the information at the disposal of the Government, there ought to be action on the lines of this marketing board, but I said that in my opinion the Government were right to appoint the Sea-fish Commission.


Of course, I understand the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's personal attitude in this matter. If there is any feeling in the minds of fishermen that there is so much information now available that it, is simple to act, it is only right that we should call attention to the fact that this Committee, after two years and a portion of a year, reported that there were serious gaps in the information. What does the Committee recommend? I asked the hon. Member for Don Valley to give me the recommendations, and he hesitated. The recommendations were numerous. I take two at random from pages 152 and 153. The Committee recommended that the imposing of restrictions on imports of white fish should he considered by His Majesty's Government. That recommendation has been carried out by this legislation. They also recommend that as soon as financial conditions permit a systematic marketing inquiry should be undertaken. In other words, having taken a little more than two years to make their Report, they recommend that a further inquiry should be started, and here is this legislation directing the setting up of a Commission to make the inquiry which was recommended by the Scott Report. The Committee took two years and more to arrive at their conclusions recommending certain action, and action is now taken—interim and immediate action—restricting the landings, selecting the size of fish and altering the mesh of the net. In those circumstances, the Amendment limiting the powers of the Board of Trade to one year obviously cannot be accepted.

5.37 p.m.


May I remind the hon. Gentleman that paragraph 133 relates to fish-marketing as a whole and to the statistical side of fish-marketing? This Bill does nothing to deal with fish-marketing or with the distribution, the

Division No. 265.] AYES. [5.39 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Cook, Thomas A. Graves, Marjorie
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Cooke, Douglas Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.) Cooper, A. Duff Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Courthope, Colonel Sir George L. Grigg, Sir Edward
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Cowan, D, M. Grimeton, R. V.
Asks, Sir Robert William Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Gritten, W. G. Howard
Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard Guy, J. C. Morrison
Balllie Sir Adrian W. M. Cuiverwell, Cyril Tom Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C. Hamilton, Sir George (Irford)
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeoll) Hanley, Dennis A.
Bateman, A. L. Davison Sir William Henry Harbord, Arthur
Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury) Dickle, John P. Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenn'gt'n)
Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Donner, P. W. Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Drewe, Cedric Hornby, Frank
Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton) Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Horsbrugh, Florence
Blindell, James Duggan, Hubert John Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
Borodale, Viscount Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)
Boulton, W. W. Dunglass, Lord Hurd, Sir Percy
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Edmondson, Major A. J. Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E. Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey Jesson, Major Thomas E.
Broadbent, Colonel John Elliston, Captain George Sampson Johnston, J. W. (Ciackmannan)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham) Entwistle, Cyril Fullard Kerr, Hamilton W.
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Knight. Holford
Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T. Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Burghley, Lord Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Falle, Sir Bertram G. Law, Sir Alfred
Burnett, John George Forestler-Walker, Sir Leolin Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brady) Fox, Sir Gifford Leckie, J. A.
Chamberlain. Rt. Hon. Sir. J.A. (Birm., W) Fraser, Captain Ian Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.) Fuller, Captain A. G. Levy, Thomas
Christie, James Archibald Galbraith, James Francis Wallace Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-
Clarry, Reginald George Ganzoni, Sir John Lloyd, Geoffrey
Clayton, Sir Christopher Gluckstein, Louis Halle Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)
Cobb, Sir Cyril Golf, Sir Park Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Gower, Sir Robert Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.) MacAndrew, Lieut -Col. C. G. (Partick)
Conant, R. J. E. Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)

sale or anything connected with marketing at all. I agree that paragraph 133 left the Committee in doubt as to what the truth of the situation was, but the figures that the Committee obtained will be on record, and surely inside 12 months the Board ought to be able, with the information at their disposal, to come to a conclusion.

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)

I have allowed the hon. Member to interrupt, but he has exhausted his right to speak on this Amendment.


I will not indulge in a. further speech. I only want to point out that paragraph 133 deals exclusively with marketing and has no reference to the organisation of the catching and landing of fish.


Of course, paragraph 133 applies to marketing, but the Sea-Fish Commission is not limited to that. It covers the whole industry. Their powers are set out in Clause 5.

Question put, "That the words 'three years' stand part of the Bill."

The House divided: Ayes, 216; Noes, 44.

McConnell, Sir Joseph Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian) Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)
MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw) Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles) Stuart, Lord C. Crichton
McKie, John Hamilton Ramsden, Sir Eugene Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton Rankin, Robert Summersby, Charles H.
McLean, Major Sir Alan Rawson, Sir Cooper Sutcliffe, Harold
McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston) Ray, Sir William Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
Magnay, Thomas Reid, William Allan (Derby) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Maitland, Adam Rentoul, Sir Gervais S. Thorp, Linton Theodore
Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M. Rosbotham, Sir Thomas Titchfieid, Major the Marquess of
Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R. Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)
Marsden, Commander Arthur Runge, Norah Cecil Touche, Gordon Cosmo
Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Turton, Robert Hugh
Merriman, Sir F. Boyd Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
Milne, Charles Rutherford, John (Edmonton) Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham) Salmon, Sir Isidore Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.) Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.) Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Morris-Jones, Dr. H. (Denbigh) Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D. Watt, Captain George Steven H.
Morrison, William Shephard Savery, Samuel Servington Wayland, Sir William A.
Moss, Captain H. J. Scone, Lord Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Muirhead, Major A. J. Selley, Harry R. Wells, Sydney Richard
Munro, Patrick Shute, Colonel J. J. Weymouth, Viscount
Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph Skelton, Archibald Noel Whiteside, Borras Noel H.
Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H. Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield. Hallam) Whyte, Jardine Bell
Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld) Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
North, Edward T. Smith-Carington, Neville W. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Peat, Charles U. Soper, Richard Wills, Wilfrid D.
Perkins, Walter R. D. Sotheren-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple) Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Wise, Alfred R.
Pike, Cecil F. Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H. Withers, Sir John James
Potter, John Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
Procter, Major Henry Adam Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Raikes, Henry V. A. M. Strauss, Edward A. Sir George Penny and Sir Victor
Attlee, Clement Richard Holdsworth, Herbert Parkinson, John Allen
Baffield, John William Janner, Barnett Rea, Walter Russell
Batey, Joseph Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown) Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Kirkwood, David Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(Cothness)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Edwards, Charles Lawson, John James Thorne, William James
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Leonard, William Tinker, John Joseph
Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Logan, David Gilbert Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)
Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton) Lunn, William Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McEntee, Valentine L. Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Griffith, F. Kingsley (Mlddlesbro', W.) Maclean. Nell (Glasgow, Govan)
Grundy, Thomas W. Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot TELLERS FOR THE NOES.
Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetr'd) Mander, Geoffrey le M. Mr. G. Macdonald and Mr. Groves.
Harris, Sir Percy Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)

I beg to move, in page 2, line 10, to leave out from the word "Act" to the word "unless" in line 12, and to insert instead thereof the words: an order under this Section regulating the landing of sea-fish shall not be made. This is a drafting Amendment.

5.46 p.m.


I think it is hardly right and fair that we should pass over this as a mere drafting Amendment. It is one of those occasions when the Government ought to be congratulated. Over and over again I have rather wondered why the Government put in these words. I notice there is great interest on the part of the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, and I hope I am not saying anything which might pain him. I hope it was not done by the hon. Gentleman.

I congratulate the Government on having made this change, for two reasons. In the first place, I think this drafting Amendment is very much better and purer English, and anything which can add to the purity of the English in the Bill is desirable. No doubt the Minister will agree that it would be a pity that he should be responsible for a Bill containing phrases which were not very good English, and I congratulate him on having made the alteration. It is interesting to note, also, that we have made a reduction in the number of words, the benefit of which will be reaped in the printing of further copies of the Bill, and a. loyal supporter of the Government ought not to lose the chance of patting them on the back. I congratulate the Minister on having made one of those minor economies which are so very important at present.

This may not be a very important or substantial Amendment, but it shows that we have a Government working ardently, in the first place, in the cause of the purity of grammar, and, secondly, in the cause of economy. I congratulate the Government sincerely and heartily. I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland takes it so much on his own shoulders; perhaps he found out the original error; though more probably it is the case that the original error crept in through the Scottish Department, and the English Fisheries Department found it out and put it right. I do not mind very much who was responsible; but I congratulate the Government sincerely on having made a minor alteration for the better, because some of their alterations made the Bill so much the worse.

Amendment agreed to.

5.50 p.m.


I beg to move, in page 2, line 19, to leave our from the word "Kingdom" to the end of Sub-section (4), and to insert instead thereof the words: or of that branch of the fish-curing industry in the United Kingdom, as the case may be, in whose interests the order is proposed to be made. This Amendment is a substitution for and an improvement on a passage in the Clause as it stood after having been amended in Committee. The relevant part of the Clause as it stands in the Bill now is as follows That there have been, or are being, taken all such steps (if any) as are practicable and necessary for the efficient reorganisation of that branch of the sea-fishing industry of the United Kingdom"— and now follow the words to which the Amendment refers— which is engaged in catching and landing sea-fish of that description, or, if the order is in respect of cured sea-fish of any description, for the efficient reorganisation of that branch of industry in the United Kingdom which is engaged in the production and sale of cured sea-fish of that description. Those words are not particularly clear, and the words to be substituted by the Amendment have the advantage, I think, of putting it more clearly by saying: or of that branch of the fish-curing industry in the United Kingdom, as the case may be, in whose interests the order is proposed to he made. The point is this. In Sub-section (4) the making of a new Order is dependent upon the relevant reorganisation having been made. If an Order is going to be made putting restrictions upon foreign fresh fish, then such recommendations as to reorganisation as the Sea-fish Commission may have made must have been undertaken, or must be in process of being undertaken, so far as they refer to the actual fishing, but not so far as they may refer to any other branch of the whole fishing industry; because in such a branch the reorganisation proposals would be out of the control of the fishermen, or the producers, and could only be carried out after a poll of the fish salesmen and so on. It would be unfair to make any restriction which was for the purpose of assisting the fishermen dependent upon the carrying out of a reorganisation over which they had no control. Therefore, in the first part of the Clause, which we do not seek to amend, it is made clear that, with regard to the quota for foreign landed fresh fish, the recommendations as to reorganisation are to apply only to the fishermen. Then we come to the question of the cured fish, and in place of the complex and difficult words which were in the Bill originally, and which were not made much more clear by the Amendment inserted in Committee, we now say that where it is a question of putting on a quota for any form of cured fish the reorganisation undertaken shall be the reorganisation of that part of the industry which is benefited by the restriction and no other.

Just to complete the matter, let me say there might be two parts of the fish-curing industry which might be benefited. First of all there are British boats landing wet salted fish, that is, partially cured fish, the curing of which is completed at home in the fish curing establishments. If it is desired to put on a quota for wet salted fish for the benefit of the British boats bringing it in the reorganisation would be reorganisation with regard to them alone, and not reorganisation with regard to the fish curers. Again, it might be the case, though circumstances at present do not require it, that we might wish to put on a quota in respect of completely cured foreign fish. That question does not arise at present, because I understand practically no foreign-cured fish comes in; but if it were desired to put on a quota for the benefit of fish curers the reorganisation steps which would be necessary before such an Order could be imposed would be reorganisation relevant to the fish-curing establishments. I have taken a little time to make this clear, but the words were difficult in their original form. The Amendment in Committee by which we sought to make the position clear did not, I think, succeed in that object, but now it is perfectly clear that in the case of the fish-curing branch of the industry the reorganisation steps which are necessary there before restrictions are imposed upon the foreigner will be reorganisation steps confined to that branch of the industry which will benefit by the restrictions imposed.

5.55 p.m.


The hon. Gentleman has told us that the object of this Amendment is to make the position and the Clause a little clearer. In my opinion the Clause was much clearer before than it will be now. I am inclined to think that the object of the hon. Gentleman was to cover up the tracks which he and his friends made in Committee upstairs. I do not think there can he any doubt as to what the Bill as originally worded meant. It referred to the catching and landing of fish. In Committee upstairs I moved an Amendment to add to the words "catching and landing" the words "and selling," because that was a very obvious omission. The Government have put down what I consider is a very adroit Amendment, because it makes it very difficult indeed to amend it along the lines on which we were proposing to amend the Bill before. I would like the House to consider exactly what it is that this part of the Clause recommends. I do not think there is any real difference in meaning at all, and it is not on that ground that I would object to the Amendment. The fishermen, at any rate, would have understood the original words a great deal better than they will understand the new words.

What is the basis of this Clause, and, indeed, of the Bill. It is that restrictions on the landing of fish, both foreign and home caught, are to be imposed on the distinct understanding that if that is done the industry will reorganise itself. I said upstairs, and I say again, in spite of the suggestion of the Under-Secretary, that no one has ever said or insinuated or suggested that there is much to be done in the way of improving our catching and landing methods. There is nothing materially wrong with them. If anyone can suggest that there is anything wrong with them I will be the first to say that no fishermen or anyone else engaged in the industry shall get any benefit under the Bill—if he can get any benefit—until he has put things right and acted upon any recommendation of the Sea-fish Commission or any other Commission. But, as was suggested by my hon. Friend opposite on the previous Amendment, what is wrong with the fishing industry at the present time—if there is anything wrong—is not in the catching and landing of the fish but in its sale and marketing. One cannot take up a newspaper without seeing a letter from some housewife complaining about the price she pays for fish at a shop as compared with what the hard-worked fisherman gets for it on the quayside. The object of the Amendment which I wanted to move, and which I think I am entitled to discuss on this Amendment, was to ensure that if there is going to be any reorganisation it should be real reorganisation, such as will be of some benefit to the fishermen. Unless there is some guarantee that we can have a reorganisation of marketing there will he no value to the fishermen at all.

We have heard a great deal about the recommendations of the Scott Committee, which sat for so long and covered such a large part of the ground. It is interesting to notice that, although they covered so much of the ground so very minutely, their recommendations with regard to this matter have been entirely ignored. Practically the only part not ignored was that which said that marketing required further investigation, and that another committee or commission might be set up to go into that matter. Suppose that we had a new Commission to inquire into the question of marketing, and that it made definite recommendations, what is there in this Bill to enable us to say that the benefits of restriction are to come to an end unless those recommendations are carried out? There is nothing in the Bill. My hon. Friends and I put down the Amendment to try to improve the Bill in that way so as to enable the House of Commons and the Government to insist upon the recommendations of the new Commission being carried out.

We have reason to complain of the Government bringing in a comprehensive Bill of this kind to deal with the fishing industry, in that it should have ignored all those recommendations of the Scott Committee. I aim not complaining that they have not put them in here, and all that. I say is that in the next three years, at least, we ought to give the industry an opportunity of reorganisation along the lines of the marketing recommendations, and that at the end of the three years, if the industry has not put that matter right, that the restrictions should be withdrawn. The Under-Secretary said that this is only to benefit the fisherman, that marketing is outside the purview and the control of the fisherman, and that the fisherman ought not to be deprived of the benefit of the Bill seeing that he cannot insist upon fish salesmen or anybody else reorganising marketing. There is something in that, but there is no possibility—this is what the hon. Gentleman does not realise—of fishermen getting any benefit under this Bill, except along the lines of improved marketing. If you keep out of this Bill any provision which would insist an better marketing, the fishermen, and particularly the inshore fishermen, would not get any benefit from it whatsoever.

I ask the Government to go into this matter again. I am quite certain that they desire to help the fishermen, as we all do. Fishermen are a hard-working class of people, and they are certainly not getting their fair share of the proceeds of the work. Several hon. Gentlemen opposite have referred to the recommendations with regard to marketing. I would like to read one little paragraph of the Scott Committee's Report, to show exactly the sort of thing from which the fisherman suffers at the present time. At the top of page 21 the report says: Another source of discontent to which expression was given in the evidence laid before us is to be found in the present system by which the auctioneer who sells the fish at the port is usually the servant of the owner of the vessel. Then, in the next paragraph, the report says: To meet this complaint, we recommend that Parliament should be asked to confer upon the Board of Trade power after inquiry to prescribe by Order in cases of ports where they consider such a course desirable that the sale by auction of trawled fish which affects the settling sheets between owners, skippers and crews should only be conducted by salesmen independent of the owners of the fishing vessels. I should have thought that that was a very fair and reasonable recommendation in the interest of the fishermen, and it is the sort of thing which I want the Government to insist upon. As I said before, I do not complain that they have not put it into their Bill, but I complain ii they are going to let their Bill pass from the control of this House without ensuring that, by the end of three years, if this matter has not been put right, Parliament will be able to step in and say that these restrictions and benefits are to cease.

There is another question which very much interests and affects inshore fishermen, particularly in the North of Scotland. It is the system by which fish is sent up on commission to the big markets, such as Billingsgate. We find there that the fish salesmen are at the same time merchants who buy and salesmen who sell. It is impossible—and I am sure that every hon. Member will admit it—for a fisherman to get a fair deal if the man who is selling his fish is buying for himself at the same time. That, again, is something which the Government are bound very soon to take up. A similar situation was tackled with success in Paris, and there is no reason why it should not be tackled here. I agree that it may take a little time to put that matter right, and I am not complaining that it is not done now, but I am complaining that the Government are not arming themselves to insist upon it being done. Therefore, I say that the change which the Government are making, and which is trying to avoid and hide what they did before, is a retrograde step.

6.7 p.m.


The people of Scotland are famous for the clear way in which they think and express their thoughts in public, and I am very sorry that that does not apply to the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment. It is very difficult to understand what the Amendment means, and it is even more difficult to understand what the Clause itself means, and I am very sorry that the House is still left in the dark as to what we are called upon to do. With the limited power that I have, may I try to put the point to the hon. Gentleman, in order to see whether I am correct? Do I understand him to say that the curing branch of the fishing industry in this country would only get the advantages of the restriction of the landing of sea-fish if it has reorganised itself within three years? I am under the impression, from what has been said, that is so. I think it could be put thus: No branches of the fishing industry in this country are to get the benefit of the provisions of this Bill—if there are any benefits—unless those branches are reorganised.

I want to ask the hon. Gentleman whether the canning industry comes into the category of fish curing? I notice in the Scott Report, from which the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) quoted, that fish curing is done on a very large scale in Scotland. I take it that the kippering industry is part of the curing industry. The Government, of course, will want to deal very extensively with the curing of herrings, because they will want a number of red herrings for the next election.




The figures in regard to the kippering of herrings are rather alarming. The number of barrels of herrings kippered in Scotland in 1921 was 174,494, and the figure had declined to 116,050 by 1930. I would like the hon. Gentleman to tell us a little more as to what is expected of the curing industry by way of reorganisation. It is not sufficient to say that the fishing industry ought to reorganise itself, and to leave it at that. He ought to tell us what he means by reorganisation in the curing industry. I agree entirely with the contention that it does not matter so much what you do in the way of fishing and landing the fish; what matters is the marketing and the sale of the fish. That is pretty obvious to everybody, except to this Government, and they cannot see it at all. They are totally blind to the things that matter in this problem of fishing.

We on this side of the House speak with great authority. We speak with as great authority on the subject as any hon. Member, except the hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley). He knows about the fishing industry because he lives in Grimsby. I doubt that he has ever been a fisherman himself. I leave all that aside, in order to say that we are entitled to ask the Government to answer two points. What do they mean by reorganisation in the curing industry? I can understand in broad outline what it means to reorganise the fishing industry—that is to say, to reorganise the number of trawlers, to get rid of overlapping by rationalisation, and all the rest of it—but the reorganisation of the curing industry might be a very different thing. The second point is, will the hon. Gentleman make another attempt to clarify the situation a, little by answering the specific question as to whether I am right in saying that no branch of the curing industry will be entitled to receive the benefits of restriction under this Bill unless they reorganise themselves in the same fashion as the fishing industry as a whole?

6.13 p.m.


I think that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland did himself an injustice when he said that he had been a little involved, because I am sure that no hon. Member—I am speaking for the average Member of the House, and not for the abnormal Members—will disagree when I say that he was exceptionally clear for any Member speaking from any Front Bench at any time. It is difficult to conceive the type of mind which could possibly have misunderstood him. There is only one sentence of his to which I would refer, and that was when he informed the House that this Amendment was a substitution and an improvement. I do not think that he needed to inform the House that this is a substitution for the other words, because that is almost obvious. I put this point quietly, because it does not really matter. It is obvious to most of us that, if you cut out some words and put in some more, these are substituted. That is the only place where he could have conceivably blamed himself.

The hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) said that up to the point where the fish are landed the organisation of the industry is complete. I will agree with him in this way, that as you get farther South you get better and better men. That is a matter of nationality into which I will not go. At any rate, you have first-class men who thoroughly know their job, and the industry is probably as efficient as any that could be found. The hon. Gentleman, indeed, said that that was so, and, if the industry is efficient in every way, it means that we need never fear that there will be any demand from any fishing fleet anywhere, even in Scotland, for grants for new fishing boats, and so on. There must, however, be improvements of gear from time to time, and many of us would like to see further improvements in the organisation of the industry. For instance, it would be a tremendous improvement if we could get better and faster boats. I do not think the hon. Gentleman has seen that point, and, at any rate, he has disqualified himself and all the other Scottish Members from ever asking for any grants in the future. I do not think that the Members for fishing constituencies should be disqualified in that way, but that my hon. Friend should have been rather more cautious.

He made the point that this Amendment was the result of a sort of composition arrived at in Committee, before the powers that be were able to see how it worked out in print. The words, as they have now been approved by the Government's draftsman, are clearer, simpler and shorter. As regards the purpose of the words, while I have no desire to admit anything in this matter, we do realise that the object of this part of the Clause is to ensure that, unless the canning or curing industry brings its machinery and its whole organisation up to date, it will not get the advantage of Orders, or any advantage which Orders may be conceived to bring in. Before, however, the Government put down a statement of this kind, they ought to make it clear whether or not the canning and curing industries in this country are efficient. The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Womersley) is not able to take part in this Debate, but I bitterly resent the remarks which have been made to the effect that the herring-curing industry in Grimsby and other places is not thoroughly efficient and well organised. I believe it is amazingly efficient and well organised, and I want the Government to give an assurance that they are not going to interfere with it needlessly and disturb the whole organisation of the industry.

I want to see the canning industry advance enormously in some parts of the country; I want to see it organised on the best and most secure foundation, though not necessarily on too large a scale. The Government have told us nothing as to how it is going to be reorganised. It is true that there is to be a, sort of commission, but, with all the knowledge that there is on the Front Government Bench, I think we might have had one or two hints as to how it may be possible to bridge the gap between the landing and the consumption of fish. There must be some knowledge available which would enable that to be done without any further delay, and I think it ought to be made public whenever that is possible. The Government, both in Committee and here in the House, missed a chance when they were challenged, as they have been by the Socialist Members, to indicate the lines on which they think the industry could be reorganised. As far as the Amendment is concerned, I think it is an improvement, but I think the Government might have taken this opportunity to give some indication of the line which they must have in their minds as to how the fishing industry could reorganise itself. Cooperation between the fishing people 'and the sellers for the purpose of trying to eliminate unnecessary expenses is one of the ways in which improvement could be effected. Would the Government consider that to be a thing which they could help and encourage 7 If the Government would give an assurance that they would encourage such co-operation, many of us who are closely interested in the industry, and know how essential its reorganisation is, would be very glad, and would hope that it would lead to successful results.

6.21 p.m.


I am sure that everyone present, after the very lucid and clear speech,of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), will feel no further doubt about the meaning of the Amendment. I think we ought to compliment the hon. Member on his special clarity, which must be almost comparable with the sun that shines in Torquay. With regard to the Amendment, I think there is no alternative but to delete these words and insert some such words as those on the Paper. While, under Clause 5, the Sea-fish Commission have power to examine every phase of the industry, including distribution and sale, the word "sale," as applied in Clause 1 to the curing industry, excludes by implication the doing of anything for the white fish section of the industry in regard to distribution or sale, and to that extent I think the hon. Gentleman has done the only thing that it was in his power to do. I am not going to oppose the Amendment; I would not appeal to the hon. Gentleman to change the wording of the Amendment or the intention of the Government; but if, between now and the next stage of any Bill that may be brought before the House, he would employ the civil servants at the Ministry of Agriculture or some other Department to supply a really useful brief to the hon. Member for Torquay, he would be doing something really valuable.

6.23 p.m.


Although I do not represent a fishing constituency, I have had the pleasure of studying this matter for the greater part of my life. As regards the reorganisation of the industry, which is so much desired by my hon. Friend the Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams), the one thing that is required in the way of reorganisation of the industry to enable the fishermen to sell their fish is to help them to sell their fish in the inland towns. No Government has ever done anything to help the distribution of fish in the towns and villages of the country. The consumption of fish by the population of Britain is only a few ounces per head per annum. It is astonishing how little fish is eaten in the inland towns. Even in the county of Norfolk, I have found a large number of villages and towns where there was great difficulty even in getting supplies of ordinary herrings from Yarmouth. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland should address himself to taking steps, whether by the use of refrigerating machinery or by means of better railway carriage, to get the products of the fishing industry from the ports into the inland towns. I do not know whether he has taken any steps to interview the railway companies, or the people at Billingsgate or other places where fish is collected for sale. I am certain that, if it is desired to increase the sale of fish in this country, and to make this country to a greater degree independent of the necessity of sending salted herrings to Russia, the first thing to be done is to take steps to see that fish can be brought into English and Scottish towns and villages with much greater facility than is the case at present.

6.26 p.m.


Surely we are going to have a reply from the Government 1 The apology of the Under-Secretary for this Amendment was characteristically graceful, but perfectly inadequate. There are several matters which have not been explained. I should like to draw attention to the last few words of the Amendment: in whose interests the Order is proposed to be made. I think it is deplorable that the House of Commons should be reduced to legislating, in terms, on behalf of particular interests. The only sound basis for legislation in this House is the public interest as a whole, and I repeat that I think it is deplorable that we should be called upon to use language of that kind. A number of really important points have been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood) and other hon. Members, and, though I can well understand how grateful the Government are for the never-failing support of the hon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) on every Amendment which comes under discussion, I feel sure—


If I may interrupt the right hon. Baronet for a moment, I would point out that I have not supported them on every Amendment; I myself moved an Amendment against them.


I should have said that my hon. Friend never fails to give the House the benefit of his advice on every Amendment, and generally gives his support to the Government. But the House as a whole will hardly regard his defence of the Amendment as adequate, and I would ask that we should be given some reply on these points by the Government.

6.28 p.m.


Let me, first of all, answer the two questions which were put by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I did not rise to do so before, because I thought that there might be another opportunity. The hon.

Member asked: Is canning included in curing? The answer is "Yes." His second question was: What exact steps do we contemplate with regard to the reorganisation of the curing industry? The answer to that question is to be found in the actual Sub-section with which we are dealing. It is that all questions of reorganisation are, by this Bill, being put in the charge of the Sea-fish Commission. The House will recollect that the Bill has two stages. First of all, there is the period of three years during which there will be restriction of foreign imports, in return for definite provisions with regard to mesh, district, and size of fish landed. That is chapter one. Chapter two is reached when the three years are ended, and that is the matter referred to in the Sub-section.

The qualifications for new restrictions in the new period are that any recommendations that the Sea-fish Commission may have made with regard to any steps which are practicable and necessary for the efficient reorganisation of that branch of the industry shall have been, or shall be in the course of being, carried out. The question as to what the practicable and necessary steps are is being left to the Sea-fish Commission which is an almost exact analogy to the agricultural commissions which figure in the Agricultural Act, 1931. The Amendment is really only a change of words and not a change of sense. If you are to have foreign restriction, you must have reorganisation. What reorganisation? Is it to be reorganisation over which the fishermen have control or reorganisation over which only the Government will have control? The principle of the Sub-section is to make certain that, whether you are dealing; with fresh fish or the cured fish branch of the industry, the restrictions imposed upon foreign imports shall be the sequel to reorganisation over which the fishermen have control. The technical difficulty was caused by matters connected with the wet salted fish. The principle that we have worked out—and I believe we have worked it out in words now perfectly beyond reproach as far as clarity is concerned—is that it shall be reorganisation which the fishermen can bring about. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that the new language had got us into some area of graft and corruption. It obviously bears no such meaning. It is an exact reproduction of words already existing in the Agricultural Marketing Act.

6.35 p.m.


Our complaint and regret is that what the Government are proposing to do, we fear, will not benefit the fishermen. We are satisfied that the only thing that can benefit them is this question of reorganisation of marketing being dealt with. I am afraid many fishermen will be disappointed. They will have been led to believe that they are going to get great advantages from the restrictive Orders that may be passed, but anyone who has studied the working of the industry knows that the only way in which they can be benefited is by bringing down the big break between the cost of fish landed on the quay and the cost that the producer has to pay in the inland markets. Until that is tackled, I am afraid the fishermen will go empty handed.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 24, at the end, insert the words: () Any order regulating the landing of sea-fish which is made under this section before the end of the period of three years from the commencement of this Act shall, if not previously revoked, cease to have effect at the end of that period unless each House of Parliament has passed a resolution approving the continuance in force of the order."—[Major Elliot.]