HC Deb 06 June 1939 vol 348 cc182-4
5. Mr. Garro Jones

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware that the average price received by the producer of white fish in Aberdeen in the month of April this year was only 1.87d. per pound; that the prices obtained are affected by, among other factors, the practice of sharing among fish merchants and by the practice of allowing foreign quotas to be imported in the form of fillets, thus doubling the value thereof; that the prices are leading to laying up of vessels and hardship to crews in increasing numbers; and whether the White Fish Commission has submitted any proposals to him for the betterment of the industry which they are charged to supervise?

Mr. Colville

The price of white fish landed at Aberdeen during April was approximately as stated in the question. In neither of the factors referred to by the hon. Member has there been any recent change and the depression of prices has probably been due to heavy landings generally and to seasonal deterioration in the quality of the fish. I am at present considering, in consultation with the other Departments concerned, whether some arrangements can be made by which fish imported in filleted form will be computed for quota purposes at the equivalent weight of whole fish. I regret that the depression, as is not unusual in summer, resulted in the laying-up of a number of trawlers; some of these, however, are undergoing overhaul. As regards the last part of the question, I would refer the hon. Member to the answer on this point given on nth May by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to the hon. Member for South Aberdeen (Sir D. Thomson).

Mr. Garro Jones

While sharing the sparse consolation to be found in the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman, may I ask him what he proposes to do to increase the tempo of operations of the White Fish Commission; and is he further aware that the statement that there has been no change in the conditions was not founded on fact in that new proposals for laying-up on an unprecedented scale are now before the industry?

Mr. Colville

If the hon. Member reads my answer he will see that I said that two factors have not altered, the factors being those mentioned in his question which, in his view, might conduce to the laying-up of ships.

Mr. Shinwell

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain away the fact that fish landed at Aberdeen quay is being sold at less than 2d. per lb. while in the retail shops the price is 10d. and 1s., and even more per lb.?

Mr. Colville

I am advised that such sharing as exists is on a limited scale and does not eliminate competition among rival groups of individual buyers.

Mr. Garro Jones

Who advised the right hon. Gentleman of that? May I have information on that point, because that is contrary to all well informed and impartial opinion?

Sir Douglas Thomson

Is it not the case that there is a great deal of sharing in the Aberdeen market?

Mr. Colville

I shall be glad to look into any information which my hon. Friend or the hon. Member cares to give me, but the sources of information which are normally open to me have advised me in the sense stated.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Can my right hon. Friend say how far the price quoted in the question falls short of an economic price?