HC Deb 16 December 1942 vol 385 cc1925-8
55. Mr. Leslie

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is satisfied that the zonal system for the equitable distribution of fish is being properly carried out by the fishing interests; and what action will be taken to deal with attempts at sabotage to prevent the success of this system?

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food (Mr. Mabane)

The object of the fish zoning scheme is to serve a vital national interest by economising the use of inland transport. My Noble Friend is satisfied that most of those engaged in the distribution of fish recognise this and have been prepared to co-operate to the full in making the scheme a success. Prior to the introduction of this scheme, the fish trade, although they were unable themselves to submit satisfactory transport proposals, expressed strong opposition to the scheme prepared by my Department. Since this scheme was brought into operation the opposition has been fostered in some quarters. My Noble Friend last week made it quite clear to the Fish Industry Joint Council that he had no intention of abandoning the scheme. As a result the Council has appointed a Committee of its members to co-operate with the Department in bringing about improvements, and I am hopeful that this co-operation will produce fruitful results.

Mr. Leslie

Is it not the case that certain retailers, while exhibiting notices "No Fish to-day," are supplying hotels and restaurants, thus hoodwinking the public into believing that the zoning system has failed? Could a watch be kept on those retailers?

Mr. Mabane

I am grateful for that question. When a case of this kind was brought to my notice I made inquiries as to the amount of fish the retailer had received, and found that it was 95 per cent. of the amount he had received during the same period last year.

Captain Macdonald

Is there any evidence that steps are being taken by those in the trade to sabotage the Minister's proposals?

Mr. Mabane

As I indicated in my answer, the opposition that was previously very evident had been fostered in certain quarters. I am certain that the House may now rely upon my Noble Friend to take action to secure that the Regulations are properly observed.

Viscountess Astor

Is it not true that some of the dissatisfaction does not come from people who want to sabotage the scheme but from people who think that it cannot work properly?

Mr. Arthur Duckworth

Is my hon. Friend aware that the grievance of retailers is not against the scheme but against the grave inequalities in it as between one retailer and another?

Mr. Mabane

I cannot agree that there are grave inequalities between retailers. When inequalities in the allocations exist, the officers can put them right. For example, I read this morning that there is no fish in London to-day, but I have made inquiries and find that 206 tons were delivered at Billingsgate yesterday. That is below the recent average of 300 tons, but it is 206 tons in this difficult month of December and is not exactly "No fish for London."

Mr. Shinwell

Where has it all gone to?

Commander Locker-Lampson

Will the hon. Gentleman improve the supply at Christmas time?

56. Mr. Jewson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he can now make a statement on the supply of fish to Great Yarmouth?

Mr. Mabane

The distribution of fish landed at Great Yarmouth and other ports on the Suffolk and Norfolk coast has been uneven. The position is being examined locally, and in the meantime supplementary supplies are being sent to Great Yarmouth.

61. Mr. Lipson

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he will give a list of the districts in which the fish zoning scheme is functioning satisfactorily?

Mr. Mabane

The fish zoning scheme was introduced with the object of economising internal transport. From this point of view the scheme is proving a success. In several cities and other areas the original allocations have been inadequately proportioned, and steps have been taken with a view to remedying these defects. From information reaching my Department, however, it is clear that in most other parts of the country the scheme is achieving not only transport economies but also equitable distribution.

Mr. Lipson

Is my hon. Friend aware that he has not answered my Question? In view of the surprising statement he made last week, and repeated to-day, that the fish zoning scheme is functioning satisfactorily in the greater part of the country, is it not only fair that he should state where the districts are?

Mr. Mabane

It is easier to state the districts in which at the outset the scheme was not working satisfactorily. I am sure that it is true that over a great part of the country the scheme, particularly having in view its original objective of saving transport, is working satisfactorily—(HON. MEMBERS: "Where?")—for example in a great many parts of rural England and smaller towns.

Mr. Lipson

May I ask for your Ruling, Mr. Speaker? The Question definitely asks the Minister to give a list of districts. The Minister has given an answer which does not supply that list. Am I not justified in asking him to answer the Question?

Mr. Speaker

If he has not the information, he cannot give it.

Mr. Lipson

In view of the fact that the Minister has not answered the Question on the Paper, I beg to give notice that at the earliest possible moment I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment in order to try and elicit that information.

62. Mr. Cocks

asked the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food whether he is aware of the shortage of supplies of fish to Nottinghamshire; whether this is due to the fact that Nottinghamshire has been allocated an East Coast port where very few trawlers land their catches; and whether he will consider allocating an additional port to Nottinghamshire or take other steps to increase the supply of fish to this area?

Mr. Mabane

From information which has reached my Department it would appear that the supplies sent to wholesale merchants in Nottingham market since the commencement of the zoning scheme have been approximately equal to a fair share of the total landings during that period. I am, however, arranging for the distribution of these supplies to the remainder of the county to be examined and I will communicate the result to my hon. Friend as soon as possible.

Mr. Cocks

Is the Minister aware that supplies in Nottinghamshire in the last few weeks compare unfavourably with the supplies in a similar period last year?

Mr. Mabane

I find it difficult to admit that, because from 19th to 28th October wholesalers in Nottinghamshire received 25,611 stones. If supplies had been in strict accordance to entitlement, they would have got 22,000 stones.

Mr. Hannah

When will fish be expected in the Black Country?

Viscountess Astor

What does the Minister propose to do in an area like Plymouth, where the trawlers could not go out for two days, as that must happen in other places?

Forward to