HC Deb 13 March 1939 vol 345 cc28-9
42. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the Admiralty regard steam drifters as necessary for the naval defence of the country; that over 1,000 of these vessels were in the service of the Navy at the end of the last War, but that less than 700 are now available, and their numbers are falling steadily at the rate of nearly 100 per annum; and whether, in view of the dangerous situation thus disclosed in regard to the defence and essential food supply, he will consult with the Treasury, the Admiralty, and the Scottish Office, with a view to preparing an immediate scheme for the encouragement of the herring industry, and the maintenance of a sufficient fleet of boats?

The Minister of Agriculture (Colonel Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith)

I am aware that the Admiralty regards steam drifters as of value in time of emergency and also that the number of steam drifters is declining. The Government have, however, decided that any financial assistance to the herring industry in aid of rebuilding shall be directed towards the provision of new motor boats. The conditions under which grants and loans may be made for this purpose under the terms of the Herring Industry Acts, 1935 and 1938, have recently been announced. I cannot hold out any hope of State aid to the industry other than that for which provision has been made in these Acts.

Mr. Stewart

Is the Minister aware that under those Acts only 15 boats per annum are being built, and that most of them will probably be too small for Admiralty use, and what is the answer to the question as to the defensive needs of the nation?

Sir R. Dorman-Smith

I think the hon. Member should put that question to other Ministers.

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