HC Deb 04 July 1935 vol 303 cc2110-29

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £74,127, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1936, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Fishery Board for Scotland, including Expenses of Marine Superintendence, and a Grant in Aid of Piers or Quays." [NOTE.—£54,250 has been voted on account.]

9.26 p.m.


We now ask the Committee to turn from the special areas Vote to the fishery Vote. Let me recall to the memory of the Committee that during the last two years the Fishery Board and the activities in connection with that office have been centred around two main problems. The first was the illegal trawling practice which had grown up for many years round the coast of Scotland, and the second the severe plight of the herring industry for many years past. These two problems have been tackled, I do not say completely, but with zest in the Measures which are now on the Statute Book, and it becomes us to-day to consider their administration. There will be no doubt in a later stage of the Session a discussion on the herring industry Vote—there will be a special Vote for that purpose—but it would seem to be appropriate that I should say one or two words this evening on the subject of the herring industry, because it has always been closely allied to the Fisheries Board. That measure brought some gleam of comfort and hope to the herring industry. The difficulties, however, which beset the industry are not only questions affecting the internal administration of the industry over which they have control themselves; the complete salvation lies outside their control, in their inability to persuade countries abroad to buy these cured herring. Since the Bill became law progress has been made, and the Board is now functioning. It has settled down to its task with good will, after much searching of heart and many arguments, around which controversy has settled during the last 12 months.

Fishing has opened in a fairly prosperous manner. The fishing fleet engaged is slightly larger than last year, and the catch of herring from 1st April to the end of June shows an increase of some 40 per cent. Practically every important district has shared in that increase. It would be unwise for me to prophesy the ultimate result of the fortunes of the herring industry during this year, for few industries are more liable to fluctuations of world trade, but it is permissible to hope that a step has been taken to secure a greater measure of prosperity for the herring industry.

Before passing from that, there are two matters connected with the industry to which I would like to refer. The first relates to the trade agreements which the Government have made with certain Continental countries which are important customers for cured herring. I will not go into the details, which are no doubt known to many hon. Members, but taking five countries—Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland—with which agreements were concluded, I may mention that the exports from Scotland to them rose from 124,000 barrels in 1932 to 154,000 barrels in 1933, and there was a further increase to 211,000 barrels in 1934. These figures are no doubt not satisfactory, but they do indicate an upward course in our exports to those countries which has, I suggest, been made possible by the new trade policy of His Majesty's Government. It is true that other markets, such as Russia and Germany, have gone back, but the lack of ability of the German Government and the German people to buy our herring is really outside the control of this Government.

There is one other matter connected with the herring industry I should like to touch on, and that refers to the new type of drifter which is being built, I think, in the constituency of my hon. and gallant Friend opposite (Sir M. McKenzie Wood)—drifters with Diesel engines, two of which, I understand, were built at Buckie last year. I understand that this new type of boat has running costs at least 25 per cent. less than the old steam drifter. That indicates in the minds of those competent to judge that by applying their minds and evolving a new type of boat, the fishermen will be able to ply their trade on the high seas with a greater profit to themselves in the future. It is also an indication of a spirit of enterprise and experiment which is indeed welcome.

Passing from the herring industry, the great bulk of the Scottish white fish catch is landed by trawler. Line fishing still remains important, and I regard the welfare of the men who prosecute lining in inshore waters as a matter of great importance. In many districts for many years illegal trawling has damped down the ardour of these men, and there came over them a spirit of fear and doubt as to whether they would be able to continue their line fishing, which was formerly so successful. But with the passing into law of the Illegal Trawling (Scotland) Act, increased hope has arisen, and I find around our coasts that a new spirit has grown up. Competent observers report that since the passing of the Act there has been not only a marked decrease in illegal trawling, but an increase in line fishing. In connection with that, as the Committee knows, we took steps at the same time to improve the protection to the fishermen. One of the new boats is presently under construction, tenders for the second have been received, and we hope that the contract will be placed before the end of this month. As to the third boat, that is, the boat of the drifter type, it has baffled the ingenuity of our architects to evolve a type of boat satisfactory to our needs. It is unfortunate, but we will not relax our efforts in order to secure the drifter type of boat for the fishery cruiser service. Pending the construction of the new vessels, we have tried herring drifters for patrol duties. Two such vessels were regularly employed last year, and during the winter further vessels were engaged. These vessels have given efficient service and tributes to them and to the officers serving in them have been paid by the fishermen who have benefited from their service. One other measure designed to increase the efficiency of the fleet has been the appointment of an experienced seaman to be responsible to the Department for the organisation and control of the protection fleet. That, I think, covers the ground with regard to illegal trawling during the last two years, and the further steps which the Government have taken to improve the efficiency of the protection fleet. It is undoubtedly true that we cannot hope completely to eradicate illegal trawling. There will always be some fishermen who think poaching worth trying on occasions, but we hope that with the tightening up of the law it will become a thing of the past.

Let me say a word as to the harbours round our coast. On many occasions during the year hon. Members have asked for special grants for harbours in their areas. Let me remind them that during 1934 grants and loans amounting to a total of £32,000 were sanctioned for improvements at harbours in various parts of Scotland, including Fraserburgh, Burghead, Buckie and Wick. In the current year grants and loans amounting to about the same sum have been sanctioned, including a loan of about £11,000 for the improvement of Stornoway Harbour. In addition, the two dredgers owned by the Fishery Board have been fully engaged.

The other side of the Scottish fishing industry, namely, the white fish industry, presents a more pleasing picture than the other two types of fishing to which I have referred. The total value of fish increased from £2,379,000 in 1933 to £2,695,000 in 1934. There was a good demand for fish in the home markets caused, no doubt, by the increased economic prosperity of our people, and the same time the provisions of the Sea Fishing Industry Act of 1933 undoubtedly assisted the success of the catching side of the industry. The Sea Fish Commission, after having studied the herring trade, is now directing its attention to the white fish industry, and no doubt we shall be favoured in due course with a report from that competent body. I am sure that their report will be welcomed by hon. Members in all parts of the Committee.

These are some of the details which have occupied the attention of the Commission during the last 12 months. It is a record of steady progress. It has not been startling, perhaps, but the Commission has endeavoured to deal with the two large questions which have affected the fishing industry in Scotland for many years, that is, the herring industry and the illegal trawling practices, and we now look forward with interest to its report on the white fish industry. Directly that report reaches His Majesty's Government they will give it the attention it demands. Round our coasts we have a body of men of whom all sections of the Committee are proud, and, if this House by legislation or by administration can do anything to improve the economic life and happiness of those people, it will be done, and any suggestion towards that end coming from any quarter of the Committee will be welcomed by His Majesty's Government.

9.41 p.m.


In giving a brief review of the work of the Fishery Board, the Secretary of State has made some statements which, I think, will be considered very carefully by Members who represent fishing constituencies. I do not intend to intrude upon the question of the harbours where fishing fleets require to go to shelter or to sell their catches, because the representatives of the constituencies which are directly concerned ought to deal with them. Before I make any criticism, may I make one of those complimentary references, which the Secretary of State may think I make too seldom, with reference to the crews of one of the fishery vessels. It is reported in to-day's Press that one of the crew of the "Vigilant" at considerable risk saved a man from drowning in Campbeltown harbour. That is only one of many deeds of gallantry committed by the fishery cruisers, and also by the fishermen themselves in the pursuit of their calling, and it is a deed of which we can well take notice when the opportunity offers. I am all the more pleased to draw attention to it because I have often railed at the "Vigilant" because of the long service it has been compelled to give to the Fishery Board of Scotland. I am sorry that it has not yet gone, like the "Mauretania," to its last home. It has a longer record than the "Mauretania," and as brilliant a record perhaps as the larger vessel, and I think that it ought to have been sent to its last home long ago.

One of the disappointments that I have in discussing this matter to-day is that one of the additions to the fleet is not yet quite ready to take its place and to assist in reducing still further the illegal trawling that has been going on for a long time. The "Vigilant" must be approaching 70 years of age. It was a second-hand boat when it became the property of the Fishery Board, and it has been with the Board 40 or 50 years. It has earned its old age pension by now, and it is about time it was laid away or sold for scrap. I hope that the three vessels which the Government promised last year as the result of persistent questioning will not be long delayed, because they are absolutely necessary. There is one small motor vessel which has to cover the Shetland Isles. When it is in one area, illegal trawling can go on inshore at the other side of the isles, and, if the wind is in a certain quarter, that vessel cannot get round to stop it. She seems to be of little service in the stormy waters round the Shetland Isles and the Pentland Firth, and I think it would be advisable for the marine superintendent who has now ben appointed to exercise his knowledge of the sea and his organising power to move that motor boat to some part of the coast where it would not experience such heavy weather and where the efforts of the crew to stop illegal trawling would not be thwarted in the way I have suggested.

I happened to be in Edinburgh last week on Parliamentary business and I took the opportunity of going down to Leith harbour. It would seem that the fishery cruisers regard that as a haunt of illegal trawlers, judging by the length of time they spend there. One of the fishery cruisers was already in the harbour. I did not think it would get there till I got there, but there it had been lying for three days, and I understand it lay there for another day after I had left. I also saw the fishery research vessel steaming in. I feel that the Secretary of State must be well aware, from the information he has had to get from the Fishery Board Department to reply to questions which I have addressed to him, that far too much time is being spent in Leith Harbour by fishery cruisers. Time and again I have represented to him that there is no need to bring fishery cruisers from Invergordon to Leith harbour to coal. The ships of His Majesty's Navy can coal at Invergordon. The time lost by fishery cruisers having to sail from the Moray Firth or the Shetland Isles and from various places on the North-East coast to Leith harbour to coal and then go back, with the time they have to lie off Leith harbour when coming in, could be spent to better advantage in the prevention of illegal trawling. Some of the areas cannot be properly patrolled when we find two fishery cruisers at one time either in Leith harbour or lying off Leith harbour. That is denuding the coast of the necessary protection. I suggest that the marine superintendent should be asked to pay very close attention to the reorganisation of the cruising areas and see whether the sailings of the cruisers cannot be altered so that they may do even more effective work than they have done in the past.

As to the west coast, surely it is absurd to bring vessels from the coasts of Caithness and Sutherland into Greenock in order to coal there, when they could just as well coal in the Kyle of Lamlash or other places on the west coast. The "Vigilant," which is at present utilised in the Firth of Clyde, will be, I expect, the first boat that is likely to go. I have put questions in this House as to the time these vessels spend at sea. One does not always get the satisfaction from those replies which one looks for when putting the question. One wonders whether the day occupied in getting out of Leith harbour is included as one of the days at sea. If that be so, then we get an entire misrepresentation of the length of time devoted to cruising.

Commander COCHRANE

Do I understand that the hon. Member is in favour of a 40-hour week for these fishery cruisers?


The hon. and gallant Member will see, if he looks at a reply to a question which I put about a fortnight ago, that two of these vessels spent between 20 and 25 days each in Leith harbour in two months of this year. That is a little better than a 40-hour week for these vessels, if not for the crews, because I expect they would be kept doing work while in harbour. Another question which I have raised concerned the holiday arrangements. I am certain that the hon. and gallant Member for Dumbartonshire (Commander Cochrane), who has such a desire to see that the men are not overworked and the vessels are not oversailed, will join with me here. I urge the necessity for having additional assistance in the engine room and on deck when holidays are taken. Hitherto no one has been engaged to replace any of the officers or crew away on holiday. Even in the engine room, where there are two engineers, when one goes off on holiday there is generally no auxiliary engineer taken on to fill his place, and if it were necessary for the cruiser to do any hard steaming while chasing a trawler the one engineer on board would have to get assistance from some other member of the crew, thereby taking away from the efficiency of the deck complement. I suggest that that matter should be looked into by the marine superintendent. There are several other matters which I had intended to bring up, but I had expected that we should get through the Estimates much more rapidly than we have done. It was in that expectation that we put down the Estimates of four Departments for discussion. Now it is probable that one of the most important Estimates will not be reached at all this evening and must be left for another day.

In the interests of other Members I will not now pursue the other matters which I wished to raise, but I hope the Secretary of State, will go into these matters by referring back to a number of questions I have put relating to the reorganisation of the fishery cruiser fleet to secure more effective work, and to the fuelling and stores arrangements, boiler tube and other necessary maintenance work that has to be done upon it from time to time. I hope it will be possible to find some new method of arranging the work of these cruisers, so that the best can be got out of the vessels and their crews, and that the fishermen can at all times depend upon not finding that the places where they usually look for their best catch are denuded of fish, owing to the operation of vessels which have been able to engage in illegal trawling because of the absence in Leith Harbour or elsewhere of the fishery cruisers.

9.56 p.m.


The Committee will be grateful to the Secretary of State for Scotland for the view which he has presented of the Scottish Fishery Board during the last few months, and they will perhaps desire to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman, and themselves, that the atmosphere in which we are able to discuss these Estimates is less controversial on this occasion. In recent years a great deal of the time of this Committee has been devoted to the herring fishing industry, but that question is now to some extent segregated by the fact that the Herring Board has been set up, and has a special Vote to itself. If one desired or attempted to discuss the herring fishing industry it would largely become a discussion of the activities of the Herring Board. I will not attempt to examine the work of the Board at this moment, because they have only had a short time in which to carry out the task that has been laid upon them, and I shall therefore have very much less to say than usual about the herring fishing industry.

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that the position is very much better than it was at this time last year. I am also glad to note that that improvement is largely due to the fact that the home trade has improved. That improvement is partly due to the advertisement that the hard plight of the industry secured for it last year. Many people had their attention drawn to the situation, and deliberately bought herring in order to assist the industry. The improvement is partly due to the fact that the herrings this year are very good. It is thirdly due to the fact, I am glad to say, that the industry has bestirred itself. Curers and others who sell fish from the harbour have undoubtedly done a great deal more than they have done before to try to sell their article. I have always maintained that if the industry would see that the people who buy herring, and particularly kippers, always got their fish fresh and good, sales would go up by leaps and bounds. It is not sufficiently well known that the public, who are always complaining of the prices of this fish, and of kippers in particular, can do a great deal to circumvent and get rid of the middleman by buying direct from the places where the herrings are cured. Nearly every curer nowadays has vans running throughout the country and are prepared to send directly through the post—


I would point out to the hon. Member that this year there is a special Vote for herring, and that details in regard to the herring industry should be raised on that Vote, and not on the Vote for the Fishery Board of Scotland.


I am much obliged to you, Captain Bourne. I realise the difficulties, but I might have said that last year on this Estimate. I submit that nothing that I have said trenches upon the department of the Herring Board.


The hon. Member is overlooking the fact that the Vote for the herring industry, as such, last year was supplementary. Therefore, it came under the Fishery Board of Scotland. That is no longer true.


With respect, I suggest that the Fishery Board has exactly the same duties to perform in the herring industry as it had last year, and that the only difference is that it is now being assisted by another organisation called the Herring Board. I doubt if there is one thing which the Scottish Fishery Board could have done last year which it could not do this year. I submit that I have not gone outside the scope of this Vote; in any case I do not desire to proceed with it any further. I am trying to take advantage of this Vote to impress upon the public outside that they can now get this fish very cheaply, and much better than they could otherwise, because it can come straight from the curer. I hope that they will take advantage of that. Now is the time, when these kippers are at their very best. Even if you take into account the postage—the General Post Office, by reducing their rates, have assisted—people can have them at less than one penny each.


Cannot the hon. Gentleman do something to eliminate the bone in the middle of the fish?


If the hon. Member knew how to eat a kipper I do not think the bone would trouble him. He has been too long away from Scotland, and has become Anglicised. The herring fishing industry is undergoing very great changes, to which a number of factors are contributing. The hon. Member for Bromley (Sir E. Campbell) has just referred to the bones; the industry are now using machines to bone and prepare the fish in a way that was never adopted before. That may mean that the public will be provided with cheaper fish, although it may have the effect, like the introduction of machinery in other industries, of making the work which the industry provides less than it was before. The action of the unemployment insurance scheme on the herring fishing industry is also producing unlooked for results. Many factors are tending to the industrialisation of the herring industry to an extent never dreamt of in Scotland in recent years. I hope that the Scottish Fishery Board and the Scottish Office are keeping in touch with the Ministry of Labour to impress upon them that changes are taking place. I hope it will not be considered enough to supply the Ministry of Labour with information when the Ministry ask for it, but that the Scottish Office and the Scottish Fishery Board will consider it to be their duty to take the initiative. My experience is that the Ministry of Labour require a great deal of information.

I would draw attention to the fact that there is a vacancy upon the Fishery Board, caused recently by the death of Sir Malcolm Smith, who used to be in this House and who had given a great deal of valuable service to the fishing industry, which I am sure everyone will be glad to acknowledge. I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman could say whether it is proposed in the near future to fill that vacancy. If we are going to get the best men to join a body like the Scottish Fishery Board, the right hon. Gentleman will have to see that the recommendations of that Board are always treated with the very greatest respect. I have no doubt the right hon. Gentleman would be very sorry if it could be suggested that that was not always the case, but one is sorry when one sees a recommendation of a body of this kind apparently turned down, as it was recently, in connection with the seine-net controversy in the Firth of Forth. The Fishery Board, as I understand, appointed a sub-commitee to go into this question. They had some difficulty, as far as I can see, in coming to a conclusion, but they recommended that a certain course should be taken as an experiment for a year. It was a recommendation of an experiment which had been tried in somewhat similar circumstances in the Moray Firth, and, I believe, tried very successfully. However, the Secretary of State for Scotland did not see his way to accept their recommendation, and the draft order which they had made was not confirmed by him. I think that was unfortunate, because if these recommendations are to be turned down, it is not likely to attract to the Board the very best type of men, which I am sure the right hon. Gentleman and everyone else would desire to do.

The right hon. Gentleman made some references to piers and harbours, always a very vexed question in dealing with the Scottish Fishery Board Vote. He knows as well as anyone else how depressed these fishery districts are at the present time, and how many men have dropped out of fishing and looked forward to work of more or less a labouring kind. The repairs to harbours provide almost the only type of work which is available for them, and there are no public works in the North and the North East of Scotland which are of so much value as the works which are expended on repairing these harbours round our coasts. The present position is very unsatisfactory. Many of these harbours are not properly managed; indeed, some of them are hardly managed at all. The right hon. Gentleman introduced a Bill last year, I think it was, which I had hoped would help, but it did not proceed further. I hope he will consider that Bill and see whether it might not go some distance towards keeping these small harbours in a state of better repair than they have been hitherto.

A sum of something like £5,000 is devoted to fishery research, but very little information is given in the Vote as to how this money is used. Some time ago I met Dr. Lumley, of Aberdeen, who has been carrying out some very good experiments in the way of curing fish, but we have never yet had from the Scottish Office any explanation of what exactly he is doing and what success has attended his efforts. I feel quite certain, as I think Dr. Lumley does too, that he is on the right lines, and I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman could give us some information as to what has so far been achieved. I believe that Dr. Lumley works directly under the Economic Advisory Committee, but there is a large sum of £5,000 here, also devoted to fishery research, and I wonder whether we may be told whether the two Votes are dovetailed together, or how they are dealt with.

The right hon. Gentleman had a word or two to say about the success of his Department in getting rid of the two controversial questions of his time, the herring question and the illegal trawling question. There is no doubt that the Illegal Trawling Act was highly desirable and has been of considerable advantage, but when it was going through this House I impressed upon the right hon. Gentleman, as I impress upon him now, that merely getting rid of trawlers will not of itself bring prosperity to these districts, and particularly to the Highland districts and the islands of the North West. What they want, I am certain, is assistance in getting better craft, motor craft particularly, and if something could be done with the money at the disposal of the right hon. Gentleman or of the Development Commission to assist these men to get modern boats, I am sure a great deal could be done, not only to help them, but to improve the whole economic condition of the North West of Scotland. I desire, in conclusion, to offer my congratulations to the Board and to the Secretary of State for Scotland on the very improved outlook that we have at the present time, and I sincerely trust that that better prospect which we now see will be improved still further and that the lot of the herring fishermen will never be as bad again as it has been during the last two or three years.

10.15 p.m.

Captain McEWEN

I should like to join with the two previous speakers in congratulating the Secretary of State on his lucid and interesting speech. Before I pass to the two comparatively small points with which I wish to deal, I should like, however, to say that I failed entirely to appreciate the argument of the hon. and gallant Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) in connection with the recent proposed Firth of Forth bylaw. His argument, as far as I was able to understand it, was that men of ability would not be attracted to join the Scottish Fishery Board in future because the Secretary of State chose to refuse to sanction that by-law when it was submitted to him. It is well known, however, that the Secretary of State, by virtue of his office, has the right of veto in a great many fields, and I cannot appreciate the strength of the argument put forward by the hon. and gallant Member. I do not think that men of ability are so thin-skinned as he seems to suggest.

The first of the two points that I wish to raise is connected with this same proposed Firth of Forth by-law. Had the by-law been sanctioned and come into operation, it would have had, among other things, a most damaging effect upon the seine-net boats, and most of these in which I am interested come from the port of Cockenzie. When the inquiry started, therefore, it was obviously incumbent upon these men in particular to put their case before the Committee, and in doing so they have incurred very considerable expense. It so happens that they are a very hard-hit community, and, as the proceedings involving this extra outlay were, so to speak, forced upon them, because they did not ask for the by-law in the first place, there would appear to me to be good ground for asking that the suggestion that they should be relieved of this expense may be favourably viewed by the Department.

My other point is connected with the subject of dredging, in which I take a considerable interest, since at least one harbour in my Division, the harbour of Eyemouth, in Berwickshire, is entirely dependent for its existence upon dredging operations. I notice that on page 51 of the Annual Report, where this subject is dealt with, it is stated that there are only two dredgers in the possession of the Board, and I also understand that an inquiry which was made as to the use of a dredger for a certain harbour in the North of Scotland recently was answered by the Board to the effect that it was impossible to send either of these two dredgers to this particular harbour, as the services of both were booked up for many months ahead. I would appeal to the Secretary of State, if he can possibly manage it, to see that we have at least one additional dredger for use in our Scottish harbours, because it is quite evident that the two at present in existence are not enough.

10.19 p.m.


I rise to draw attention to a matter which has been engaging the active interest of my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. A. Russell). I am glad to seize this opportunity of seconding his efforts. The seaport town of Buckhaven, in Fife, whose harbour must be familiar to all those who are fond of the picturesque, used to be, not so very long ago, quite a busy little place, but to-day its activities have practically come to an end. The fishing in the Firth of Forth is not what it was; it is on the decline; but nevertheless the fishing in the Forth is still perfectly capable of furnishing with a livelihood a considerable number of fisher folk in Buckhaven. But Buckhaven has suffered a calamity. There is a colliery nearby, and refuse is swept round by the current into the harbour. I went there to see it, and it was manifest even to the eyes of a landsman what had happened. They told me that the entrance to the harbour was partially blocked and that that morning one boat trying to enter it was swamped. It is more than inconvenient; it is dangerous. Five years ago an appeal was made to the Government, and they sent a dredger to clear the harbour. The fishermen are renewing the appeal through me to-day.

It is said sometimes by some people that this is not an economic proposition and that money could be spent more profitably in some other way. I have also heard it asked why the people could not go elsewhere and try to find some other occupation. I do not think these arguments will commend themselves to hon. Members. It is not a matter of economics at all. I hope the Secretary of State will not view the problem through the spectacles of a chartered accountant. The amount required to clear the harbour is a mere trifle to the Government, but it is not a trifle to Buckhaven, nor to Scotland, that our rapidly diminishing sea population should be further diminished. I anticipate that the right hon. Gentleman will give me a sympathetic answer, but I want more than that. I suppose, while I am speaking, the fishermen are lounging at the pierhead looking disconsolately at the sky. The best answer that they could get would be a view of the smoke of a dredger on the horizon.

10.23 p.m.


I wish to refer to the Firth of Forth inquiry and the drift net controversy. That inquiry was due to the fact that the Secretary of State felt unable himself, on the evidence provided for him by the Board, to make a decision. He refused to decide one way or the other, either to accept the by-law of the Fishery Board or to reject it. He said he could not make up his mind until he had a special inquiry. He ordered the inquiry, which involved the attendance of fishermen from the hon. Member's side of the coast and from the side which the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Milne) and I represent. They were obliged to attend the inquiry, and it has cost the men from my constituency some hundreds of pounds. They have no money to pay that. I understand that the costs are being guaranteed by one person, and it is very doubtful to me whether he will get them refunded. In the circumstances the Secretary of State is almost bound under a debt of honour to recoup these poor men for their expenses in attending the inquiry. It is not only a case of journeys to Edinburgh and sometimes staying the night. They have had to engage counsel, which is an expensive luxury. I support the hon. Member in the plea that the whole of the expenses of the attendance of these men and the presentation of their case should be met out of State funds. The second point is that in the Duncan Report, as the right hon. Gentleman is aware, one of the most important recommendations was that the winter herring fishing in Scotland and elsewhere should be strengthened. We found in the last two or three years the most important winter fishing—


Since the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) spoke I have had the advantage of seeing a copy of the Herring Industry Act, and I am quite clear that any matter dealing with the herring fishery must be raised on the appropriate Estimate, and is not now before the Committee.


I am going to ask the Secretary of State to give assistance for the extension of the harbour at Anstruther, and in order to support that argument I must raise the matter of the herring fishery. The question of harbours certainly arises out of this Vote, and, therefore, I must ask for your indulgence, Captain Bourne, in order to develop my argument, which will only take about two minutes. The development of winter herring fishing throughout the whole of the coast of Great Britain is most essential. Everybody agrees that the most important fishing area in the whole of the coast of Great Britain is in the Firth of Forth, and the most important harbour in the Firth of Forth is Anstruther, Last winter we had a record catch there, and during the winter of the previous year there was a record catch. The right hon. Gentleman, I have no doubt, knows that we offered hospitality in the Firth of Forth last year to an exceptional number of visiting vessels, some of them coming from the constituency of the hon. Member for Banff (Sir M. Wood). They came to the Firth of Forth in order to make a living there, and I am glad they did. We found that the harbour accommodation at Anstruther was not nearly sufficient to cope with the increasing business.


I am afraid that this really comes under the Herring Vote. If this can be discussed at all it would appear to be in the paragraph relating to schemes for giving assistance to winter fishing.


I have been given a good piece of advice, which is to get on with the harbour and leave the herring out. In any case this harbour—I will mention no more the word "herring"—has to cope with an increasing trade at the present time.


Trade in what?


I dare not mention it, but I am sure that my right hon. Friend would not wish to cramp a development such as is now happening there. The harbour commissioners at Anstruther are presenting a proposal to the Fishery Board who I hope will look sympathetically upon the proposal. I know that the Chairman of the Fishery Board, who understands the problem there, is in great sympathy with it. I am only going to make this plea that the right hon. Gentleman, who is himself an example of great enterprise, will do everything he can to encourage the enterprise of that most enterprising people who live in the East of Fife, and that when the petition comes before the Fishery Board, the Board and the Chairman will know that, in supporting it when it goes to the development commissioners for the receipt of funds, they will have the warm support of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State.

10.30 p.m.


My hon. Friend the Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) and the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. Maclean) asked me questions about the expenses of the fishermen who had to put their case before the Commissioner who inquired into the proposed by-law. I had to defer a decision on this matter in view of the controversy existing, and in view of the difficulty of coming to a decision I thought it wise to refer the matter for further inquiry. In doing so I little thought that I should be pressed at a later stage in regard to the expenses incurred by the fishermen representing the two types of fishing. I cannot say that I can give any undertaking or promise that those expenses will be forthcoming. I cannot say under which Vote Parliament would authorise those expenses to be paid, but I will look into the matter. I heard from the hon. Member for East Fife that one individual had already promised or guaranteed a certain sum. With the good offices of another person perhaps we may be able to make an arrangement which will satisfy not the hon. Member for East Fife but the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington.

Questions have also been put to me in regard to dredging and to the use of further dredgers. I can assure the hon. Members who raised those points that the problem will be examined by myself and my advisers not through any glasses coloured with any chartered accountant outlook but with a desire to do what is best not only in the interests of the fishermen who live in these small ports, but at the same time having some regard to public finance. There are two dredgers employed by the Fishery Board, and it may be that a further dredger should be employed. I will inquire and find out the amount of work required to be done by way of dredging in these ports before coming to any decision. Undoubtedly, the position of these ports and harbours around our coasts call for anxious consideration by those responsible for them. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Banff (Sir M. McKenzie Wood) referred to the Piers and Harbours Bill which we introduced last year. May be we fixed our hopes too high when we introduced that Bill, in the hope that it would find its way on to the Statute Book at an early date. Our hopes have been frustrated, but they have only been deferred, and we shall not relax our efforts to secure the passage of that Bill into law at some other opportunity.

My hon. Friend the Member for Banff also pointed out that there was a vacancy on the Fishery Board and he asked me if it was to be filled. It has not yet been filled, but we have been addressing ourselves to the task of securing the very best possible successor to one who I can trly say has given much time and thought, without money and without reward, in the service of the Fishery Board. It is undoubtedly true that one of their recent recommendations in connection with a draft order affecting the Firth of Forth I was unable to confirm, and I referred it to a legal mind for consideration. I hope that that action will not retard or check the interest and enthusiasm which the members of the board give freely and voluntarily to the public service. As the matter has been raised this evening I should like to pay my tribute to the work of the board and to those individuals who come from different parts of Scotland to study the problems which are presented to them by the chairman. I thank them on behalf of His Majesty's Government not only for their guidance during the passage of the Herring Bill into law, but for the real help their assistance has been over a long period of time to the fishing industry of Scotland.

The hon. Member also asked about research at Aberdeen. No money is set apart in this Vote for this research work. He spoke of the valuable work done by Dr. Lumley, but the Vote under which he works is industrial research and is under the jurisdiction of the Lord President of the Council. It is not included in the multifarious duties which fall on the shoulders of the Secretary of State. The hon. Member pleaded for assistance for West Highland fishermen to enable them to secure modern boats. During the last year or two there has been considerable development on the Eastern shore, and I hope that this spirit of enterprise will spread rapidly to the West. They may have no capital, but it is not only capital which is wanted. There may be other factors which are needed. Although we addressed ourselves to the problem last year, unfortunately we were not able to find a solution. As the controversy about the herring industry is now out of the way I hope that we may be able to turn our attention to the line fishermen around our shores. The hon. Member for Govan (Mr. N. Maclean), whose interest in the fishery boats and their crews is well known, asked that the new marine superintendent, who is about to take up his duties, should make a survey and consider whether it was not advisable that the headquarters of the boats which are stationed at Leith and work up the East Coast as far as Invergordon, and the boats which have their principal harbour at Greenock, should be transferred to a more northerly port.


I suggested that there should be some rearrangement so that they would not be compelled whenever they wanted to refuel to come down to Greenock on the West Coast or to Leith Harbour on the East.


I will ask the new marine superintendent, who has spent his life at sea, to direct his attention to that matter so that we may secure the best possible arrangement. Our sole object is to promote the interests of the fishermen, an object which the hon. Member for Govan has at heart as much as we have. We shall endeavour to see whether some improvement can be made in the matter. These are the points which have been raised in the Debate. I thank hon. Members for their help and assistance and the encouragement they have given to the Government. Anything which the Government can do to secure a more prosperous time for the fishermen around our coasts we are only too anxious to do.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

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