HC Deb 07 April 1938 vol 334 cc581-4

5.12 p.m.

Mr. Foot

I beg to move, in page 2, line 23, at the end, to insert: (d) the business of a fishmonger in Scotland. I am afraid that the Amendment which I am now submitting may not command the same wide general support as was given to the Clause which I moved. This Amendment is designed to meet the special needs of the retail fish trade in Scotland, because it is widely felt in Scotland that their needs will not be met simply by the appointment on the Joint Council of a representative of the fishmongers all over the country. The reasons in support of the Amendment are these: First, in Scotland, unlike England, there are no inland wholesale fish markets; practically all the markets are at the ports. The fishmonger, or his agent, attends each day and selects his own purchases from the landings, as the fish comes in. He does not depend upon a wholesaler to anything like the same extent as does the fishmonger in England. Secondly, very large quantities of the fish sold in Scotland have been filleted. That may be thought to be not entirely desirable, but it is the form in which large quantities of fish are sold there, and the filleting of the fish is done by the fishmongers on their own premises. Thirdly, I am informed, and admittedly my information comes from Scotland, that the fish sold in Scotland is usually of a much higher standard than the fish sold in England. It is suggested that that is due to the fact that Scotland has a much larger number of small ports and small fishing centres at which the fish is landed. Fourthly, the Scottish fishmonger depends very much less upon sidelines, the selling of other commodities in his shop, than does the English fishmonger.

I understand that this request for separate representation has already been before the Ministers who are in charge of the Bill, and also that it has the support of the National Federation of Fishmongers. I may be told that this Amendment is really unnecessary, and in a sense it may be, because the Clause provides that the Ministers may appoint "such other members" as they think desirable. As far as I can see the Clause does not lay down the exact number of members who are to be appointed to the Joint Council to represent the various sections of the industry. For all I know it may be the intention of the Minister to make an appointment of this kind. I ask only that he shall bear in mind the representations which have been made on behalf of Scottish fishmongers. I hope the Minister will tell me that he is giving serious consideration to these representations and that, if he finds it necessary and is satisfied that the conditions obtain, he will give the same separate representation to Scottish fishmongers.

Sir Hugh Seely

I beg to second the Amendment.

5.16 p.m.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

The hon. Member who moved the Amendment must realise that its implications have to be considered. The Bill has hitherto proceeded upon the basis that schemes would apply throughout Great Britain, and this is the first suggestion which we have had that it ought to be regional or national in character, in that separate treatment should be accorded to Scotland. It is clear that I could not accept the Amendment without very much consideration but, in the time at my disposal, I have looked at Clause 8, where it is made possible for the powers exercisable by a producers' marketing board to apply either generally, or in relation to a particular area. Some variation may be made to suit the requirements of a particular locality. No such power is in the Bill in relation to distributors' requirements, and I am prepared to consider whether it is possible to make the necessary Amendment to Clause 10 and impart some elasticity to it in regard to local conditions and requirements of distributors. I give that assurance. I will consider the representations of the advisory committee on any local condition such as those to which the hon. Member has directed my attention.

Mr. Foot

In view of that assurance, for which I thank the Minister, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


Mr. W. S. Morrison

I beg to move, in page 2, line 36, to leave out from "Act," to "a," in line 39, and to insert: a person shall be deemed to carry on the business of selling white fish by wholesale if, in the course of any business carried on by him, he sells any white fish to a person who buys the fish for the purpose of selling them again, and shall be deemed to carry on the business of a fishmonger if, in the course of any business carried on by him, he sells white fish by retail: Provided that—

  1. (a) a sale of white fish by auction effected at a port by or on behalf of the catcher of the fish shall be deemed not to be a sale by wholesale;
  2. (b) a person shall not be taken to carry on the business of a fishmonger by reason only that at any premises he sells white fish for consumption at those premises; and
  3. (c) a sale of white fish to a person who, in the course of carrying on any business other than that of a fish-frier, buys white fish for the purpose only of selling them again in a condition in which they are ready for eating without further treatment, shall be deemed to be a sale by retail and not a sale by wholesale;
and, whenever a person whose business or part of whose business it is to buy white fish for the purpose of selling them again buys any white fish, he shall, until the contrary is proved, be deemed to buy the fish for that purpose. (4) For the purposes of this Part of this Act. This Amendment is formidable in appearance but very simple in purpose. Its object is to make sure that there is no confusion or overlapping among the various designated businesses, which are the foundation of the whole machinery of the Bill. It is essential that people should know to which designated business they belong, and it is necessary that some definition be attempted to distinguish between wholesalers and retailers in the trade so that each one engaged in it will know to which section of the trade he may belong. It is true that he may belong to both and require to be registered accordingly. This is the definition which we thought it proper to put in. I would direct the attention of the House to paragraph (c) the effect of which is to make the person who sells fish to a hotel or a restaurant a retailer for that purpose. Some wholesalers may sell by wholesale to hotels and restaurants and it may seem a little anomalous that they should be considered retailers for that purpose; but the anomaly would be very much greater if every fishmonger who included a hotel among his customers were to be classed as a wholesaler. There may be a few cases where large fishmongers sell fish to a hotel. This seems to be the best definition that can be adopted.

5.20 p.m.

Mr. Roland Robinson

I am glad that the Minister has seen fit to include in this Clause a definition of a fishmonger. There was a great deal of confusion as to people who were concerned in designated businesses, and as they were liable to heavy penalties it was necessary that some definition should be included. The present definition does not go far enough to make a distinction between a restaurant and a fish frier. There is bound to be confusion in distinguishing between a restaurant which does not have to be registered and the fish frier who must be registered. I wonder whether the Minister will give his mind to that problem because of the litigation which may arise at a later stage. I take it that the definition Clause is intended to make the definition of fishmonger as wide as possible so that it covers people who make a business of selling fish by retail. Is the grocer who sells a can of sardines a fishmonger, in that case? I am afraid he is, but I am sure that the Minister would not want that man to be registered.

Mr. W. S. Morrison

I would not like to construe this Amendment offhand, but I do not think that in the instance which the hon. Member mentioned that would make the grocer a fishmonger. The Bill relates to white fish.

Mr. Robinson

I am sure that it is so, because in the definition Clause white fish covers all fish taken from the sea except herring and salmon. Sardines and pilchards must come under the definition.

Mr. Beechman

Am I to understand that pilchards are not white fish?

Mr. Morrison

I would not be prepared to make a statement about that right away. It requires a certain amount of piscatorial knowledge. I will look into the point and, if necessary, take steps to make it clear. The intention of the Bill is not to turn a man who sells a tin of sardines into a fishmonger.

Amendment agreed to.

Further Amendment made: In page 2, line 40, leave out "for the said purposes."—[Mr. W. S. Morrison.]