§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
As the House will remember, the provisions for financial assistance to the herring industry expired on 31st March of this year. Earlier, at the outbreak of war, by Defence Regulation, the majority of the Herring Industry Board's powers had been suspended and the Board itself placed on what was practically a care and maintenance basis. During the war, Mr. Speaker, four-fifths of the total steam drifter fleets, and one-third of our motor herring vessels, have been requisitioned by the Service authorities. The fleet now consists in the main of very old boats manned by elderly men and boys. Nine-tenths of the steam drifters are over 23 years old, and half of them are more than 3o years old. Fishing for herrings is confined to-day to Scottish waters. The East Anglian fishing, again for Service reasons, has been entirely suspended.
Between 1913 and 1938 there was a continual process of depreciation in the catching power of our herring fleet. Steam drifters in 1913 were 1,470 in number; by 1938, they had been reduced to 685. The total catch was diminished in almost similar proportion. The fall of herring consumption in the home market was about 40 per cent. between 1913 and 1938 and the fall in consumption in the foreign market of British produced herring was about 60 per cent. The home market improved considerably as a result of the propaganda and other efforts of the Herring Industry Board in the years immediately before the war. When the war broke out we had about 7,300 Scots fishermen and about 2,800 Englishmen, making a total of 9,80o engaged full-time in the production of herring, In addition to that, we had 30,000 workers engaged in ancillary industries —coopering, kippering, gutting, net manufacturing and so on. The total catch of these 9,80o men was about 5,000,000 hundred weight, equal to—and this is a remarkable figure—about 25 tons of food per man per annum.
1173 The Elliot Committee, about which I will say a word in a moment, noted that the catch brought under British control equalled about half the import of South American meat for this country. These fishermen are brave, hardy and lovable men:They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters.Hon. Members who have read Mr. Neil Gunn's book "The Silver Darlings" will remember his graphic pen-picture of the dangers and hardships these men must undergo in the pursuit of their calling. They have asked little from society in either amenity or comfort, but they contributed very much indeed to our naval and Mercantile Marine strength, and they have played a most noteworthy part in preserving our food import lifeline to this country. Previous loans granted to them by the Herring Industry. Board have been repaid with scrupulous anxiety and precision. Indeed, I believe that there is only about £4,000 outstanding on all the previous loans.
§ Mr. Johnston
Speaking from memory, I think it is about £110,000. That then was the problem with which we were faced—a diminishing catch of most valuable food, ancient and outmoded boats, and gear and equipment practically gone, and a splendid and hardy population asking neither for charity nor for the dole, but only an opportunity to pursue their avocation and their calling on the seas in return for nothing but a modest and honourable recompense.
The Government appointed a Committee to inquire into the problems of the herring industry in post-war years. The first chairman of that Committee was Colonel Colville, an ex-Secretary of State for Scotland. When he went away to a post in India his place was taken by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) and I would like to express on behalf of Members in all parts of this House our gratitude to my right hon. and gallant Friend for the vigour and determination with which he pursued the inquiries of his Committee and kept its members together, despite a most distressing physical accident from which he suffered. My 1174 right hon. and gallant Friend got his Committee to bring forward a unanimous Report and following that Report we have this Bill. Many of the recommendations in the Report do not require legislation; they can be dealt with under the existing powers by administrative act. But for such parts of the recommendations of the Committee as require legislation this Bill, I think, meets them all entirely.
Clause 1 provides for grants up to a total of £820,000 towards the provision of boats, nets and gear. The grants may be made in each case up to one-third of the total cost. This provision of grants for nets and gear is new; there was no such provision under the previous Acts. The powers of this Clause are to last for a five-years' period and they increase the amount available for grants from £250,000 to £820,000. Grants will be made by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in England and Wales, the Home Secretary, acting for Northern Ireland, and by myself, on the recommendation of the Herring Industry Board in cases where a boat or the necessary equipment cannot be provided out of a man's own resources without such assistance. It is anticipated that there will be very few cases where men returning to the industry from the Services or other war work will be able to equip themselves with boats and gear without assistance. Assistance towards the replacement of old boats and equipment is also provided for under the Bill.
By Clause 2—an important Clause—it will be competent for the Board, when their powers are restored to them, to make schemes, subject to approval by Ministers and by affirmative Resolutions in Parliament, for the following purposes not covered by the existing Acts: by Subsection (1) (a) power is taken to prepare schemes for the purchasing of boats by the Board, for the equipment of boats and for chartering, for the hire of these boats to fishermen. This is an experimental Clause and the amount allotted for the experiment is £50,000. It is not sought to change fundamentally the structure of the industry, but already there are many and varied types of owners and employment in the industry, and it has been urged upon the Committee, and by the Committee upon the Government, and by fishermen's associations upon the Government, that this power is necessary to fill up gaps in certain cases.
1175 Secondly, by paragraph (b) power is taken to prepare schemes for the refrigeration and, processing of herring in order to avoid gluts. Nothing strikes the public imagination more than herring, even in very small quantities, being thrown back into the sea. Waste of food is indefensible, and it will be more indefensible in the years that are to be. Power is taken by this paragraph to arrange for refrigeration and processing. I will say a word later about the steps which the Ministry of Food have already taken in this matter. The Board are also to be empowered to act as principals themselves in special cases when it is clearly beyond the normal capacity of the trade to deal with a glut. In an emergency the Board has power to step in to deal with it. Laboratory experiments have gone a good way in both the dehydration and freezing processes.
I am sure that many hon. Members have seen, as I have seen, the experiments that have been going on at the Torry Research Station at Aberdeen. They are most remarkable. Experiments in freezing, dehydration and other processing of herring have been carried out there by Dr. Rae and his team of assistants, under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and with very considerable success on a laboratory basis. Studies and experiments have been going on for a number of years,, in close collaboration with the Scottish Home Department and the Herring Industry Board, with a view to ensuring a supply of herring throughout the year. As recommended by the Committee, experiments in freezing and dehydration on a semi-commercial scale have been arranged by the Minister of Food with Dr. Rae as his technical adviser. That is a most hopeful and encouraging experiment. It is proposed to begin by handling five cran per day, increasing later to ten cran per day. First supplies of herring have already been frozen and placed in cold store at varying temperatures, to be tested in due course. The plant for dehydration is already in working order at Aberdeen. I have had some difficulty in finding out exactly how many fish are in a cran.
§ Mr. Johnston
No. It varies. A cran is a measure of volume. "Cran" is a 1176 Gaelic word which means a "lot" or "share," and it is a measure of volume and not a measure of weight. It varies according to the size of the fish from three and a half cwt. in Scotland to three and three-quarter cwt. in England, because of the smaller fish in the English catches. The home consumption of herring before the last war was 1,000,000 cran per annum. In 1932 this had dropped to 550,000 cran, and the catch before the present war represented only about one herring per fortnight for each person in the United Kingdom. Here is a first-class foodstuff. Its energy value is as high as the energy value of salmon.
§ Mr. Johnston
It is much better and more attractive, and when properly cooked, as we hope it will be, it should become a much more common dish with our people. The cost of dehydration, up to now, has been about one-third of a penny per herring, and that will all be saved, and more than saved, in the costs of distribution. The actual cost of freezing is, I am told, less than one halfpenny per pound. There is, therefore, no difficulty whatever on the cost side in stopping this tragic waste of a first-class food.
Paragraph (c) gives power to the Board to regulate the standards of quality of the fish refrigerated. Already the Board have power under the Act of 1938 to regulate standards of quality for processing, and now they get additional powers to regulate standards for refrigeration. The next paragraph gives power to levy contributionsIn respect of any port or area, out of the proceeds of first sales of fresh herring, that is to say, the first completed sales wholesale after the herring have been caught, and to make payments to herring fishermen in that port or area in order to obviate so far as possible undue differences in their earnings.Let me explain briefly what that means. Every hon. Member who is acquainted with the economic conditions of herring fishing is aware that frequently the first boats to arrive with their catches get what is called the cream of the market prices. The later boats do not get so high prices, and sometimes only derisory prices, and sometimes the fish are taken back to sea and dumped rather than sold for the miserable prices which are available. The in- 1177 dustry itself has attempted for years, on a voluntary basis, here and there, to regulate and equalise prices, and there have been efforts at Fraserburgh and Peterhead to see whether voluntary levies could not be made upon the more prosperous catches and prices and the money devoted to a pool and that pool distributed among those with the less remunerative catches. By and large, great attempts have been made. There were voluntary schemes in 1938 and 1939, on different lines from those tried previously, but on all hands His Majesty's Government are assured that compulsory powers will have to be taken to ensure that individuals who will not play the game shall be brought into the scheme. The necessity for this is obvious. My figures here show than in Lerwick fish was sold at 5s. a cran. At Fraserburgh, the difference between the first arrival and the last was 26s. a cran—the first arrival got 46s. and the last 2os. That kind of thing does not make for an organised industry. The Ministry of Food to-day are naturally regulating prices.
§ Mr. Johnston
I know, but, by and large, the Ministry of Food have equalised prices. They have done a great deal to level things out, and I think they are to be highly commended for their efforts in that direction. Of course, there are obvious holes to be plugged up, and that is the purpose of this Clause in the Bill.
Clause 3 is a financial Clause. It provides £75,000 for administrative expenses over five years. It provides £175,000, again to be spread over five years, for all the purposes specified in Clause 3 (2), that is, for promoting the market and development, promoting sales of herrings, promoting schemes for the revival of winter fishing, buying boats, and so on. In addition, there will be a slight revenue from licensing fees and moneys from forced sales. Under Clause 4, the Board may get advances from the Treasury on loan. They may get £200,000 for marketing, and about £1,500,000 for other purposes specified in the Clause—£400,000 more than the Elliot Committee recommended. On the advice given to us we think that an adequate development of this market and this industry will require large and adequate financial resources. When they begin to operate commercially, 1178 as they may do later on, when they get powers, they can operate in the open market temporarily for that purpose. Under Clause 5, Ministers take powers to extend the operation of this Bill from five to eight years if they can show good reason to Parliament for so doing. If they can bring in an Order and lay it on the * Table of this House and the other place, and show good reasons for so doing, they may extend the operation of this Bill, as I have said, from five to eight years. It is not proposed to give the Herring Industry Board all the powers in this Bill forthwith. They will begin, we hope, to prepare their schemes in the closest consultation with every section of the trade and industry. This Bill is necessary in order that the Board may be in a position to do that, so that they may act right away, when the whistle blows, for the rehabilitation and development of the industry.
The functions of the Board, as I have said, in the first instance will be of an advisory and preparatory nature. It will be necessary to confer on the Board powers in relation to the productive side of the industry, and any resumption of their functions in respect to distribution will, of course, have to be co-ordinated with the general decontrol of food and with post-war marketing and commodity arrangements. It is not intended that any powers in relation to marketing and distribution handled directly by the Ministry of Food should now be conferred upon the Board, or conferred upon it while the emergency food control continues.
I do not intend to delay the House much longer as I know many hon. Members want to speak. All I can say about this Measure is that, to the best of our knowledge and belief, it has been accepted with almost complete concurrence by every section of the industry. There are, of course, difficulties. People want to be sure of their personal position, and so on, but, by and large, this Measure is accepted by the herring industry as absolutely essential if the industry is to live. I am very glad indeed to have been the recipient of a telegram which says:As chairman of the Clyde Fishmen's Association I wish you, on behalf of the members, Good-speed with the Herring Industry Bill. If action follows in the same spirit as the Bill, it will become known as the Fisher-men's Charter. On behalf of all the Clyde fishermen. (Signed) The Provost of Campbeltown.1179 It gives me great pleasure to move the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
May I ask my right hon. Friend if it is proposed to reconstitute the Herring Board personnel?
§ Mr. Johnston
The matter of personnel is one on which the Ministers have not yet decided. We have to get this Bill through first.
§ Mr. Loftus (Lowestoft)
I should like to say quite clearly that I welcome this Bill wholeheartedly. I want to make my position plain in view of the fact that when the 1938 Bill was before the House, I felt it incumbent on me to move its rejection, and to vote against the Money Resolution. I adopt an entirely different attitude towards this Bill to-day. May I say in passing that I think all of us who are interested in the herring industry owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Committee who drew up that admirable report? I think it is an admirable report and that for many years it will be a guide-book and text-book for all sections of the industry. Speaking from memory of the dark days, 10 years ago, when this industry was in desperate straits, I would like also to pay my tribute to the sympathy I received from my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), who was then the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.
I particularly welcome the presence on the Front Bench to-day of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Sometimes we forget that he is Minister for Fisheries as well as Agriculture, and for many years past I have advocated that he should have, and still hope that some day he may have, a Parliamentary Under-Secretary specially devoting himself to the fisheries of England and Wales. I particularly welcome his presence here to-day, because I remember that in 1938, during all stages of the last Herring Industry Bill, the English Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries was conspicuous by its absence of representation on the Front Bench throughout all the proceedings—the Committee stage, the First and Second Readings. This inevitably led to the suspicion, however unjustified, among the English herring fisheries, that the Department in England had washed their hands of all interest in the matter and handed it over to the Scottish Office.
1180 May I add, in passing, that the borough of Lowestoft is the largest herring port in the whole of Great Britain, if you take the number of herring boats registered in the port, or the number of herring fishermen domiciled in, or in the immediate neighbourhood, of the port. While the number of English herring boats is a good deal' smaller than the number of Scottish, in pre-war days our English herring boats always went on the Scottish fishing and we caught nearly half the total catch of herrings in the British Isles. I say this not in any way to invite disunity between the Scottish and English fisheries, because the one thing we all recognise is that all sections of this trade must pull together and help each other.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
May I ask my hon. Friend a question? Is that not because there is no herring fishing on Sundays?
§ Mr. Loftus
I would not enter into these Sabbatarian difficulties. Clause r, line 13, refers to: "Grants to such fishermen". Can my right hon. Friend inform me whether such grants would go to private companies or to share partnerships? The English herring trade is so organised that most of the boats are owned by companies or partnerships. When one mentions the words "limited companies" they conjure up visions of finance, the Stock Exchange, and all those modern evils, but these are small private companies. The average number of boats in an English company is five. I know of five or six companies with two boats and one with only one boat. What happens is this. A man works his way up and becomes a skipper and buys a boat. In prosperous days he buys another, and so on, and, for purely family reasons, forms a private company. One such company in Lowestoft has seven boats. This company was formed by a man who started in a humble way and rose to a prominent position. Out of his seven boats, four had as their skippers his four sons. I take it that such companies would not be eligible for grants. Then we have the share partnership where, perhaps, the widow of the skipper who bought the boat has so many shares in the partnership. Perhaps the daughter-in-law and somebody else have some shares. Would they be eligible for grants? If not, would they be eligible for a loan? I would be much 1181 obliged if my right hon. Friend could reply to these questions.
With regard to Clause 2 I am very glad that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland referred to the most interesting experiments now taking place in Aberdeen. Before the war I saw the icing of herrings at Lowestoft and I felt then that it had a big future and would help to deal with this question of glut. I hope there will be widespread research into the new methods of dealing with herring. Page 27 of the Report says:Methods of curing have altered little in the past century.I feel that there is an enormous prospect for research into new and better methods of presenting herrings of all kinds to the British public. In Holland, before the war, we got an enormous variety of herrings, among them spring herrings, an admirable dish never seen in England. I hope, therefore, we shall have many results from those experiments.
In Clause 2 also power is given to regulate the standard of quality of the herring before and after refrigeration. I welcome that, but I would like still bigger powers for regulating. standards of quality of other fish such as kippers. May I direct my right hon. Friend's attention to the following passage on page 24 of the Report:A good kipper is an inexpensive luxury appreciated by everyone, but all too often a kipper that looks desirable, proves disappointing in quality and flavour.It goes on:There are some curers whose practices are extremely detrimental to the sales of this important product.It should be said quite openly, however unpopular it is, that the kipper industry, the quality of kippers and the esteem in which the public hold kippers have been damaged, and damaged irretrievably, by the invention of this abominable dyed kipper. I know of two or three cases where people have given up eating kippers, because they did not like the flavour, and found them indigestible. I recommended them to a place where they could buy the genuine smoked kipper. They ordered some, and have gone on ordering them for years. I hope power will be given to prohibit this fake substitute of the genuine kipper and, if no such power is in the Bill, I hope to be able to put down an Amendment to effect it.
1182 As regards the promoting of the sale of herrings, both at home and abroad, I hope it will be realised that for four, five or six years after the war there will be an enormous demand for herrings in Europe from the semi-starving peoples, but during- those years let everybody connected with the industry concentrate all their energies on devising new markets overseas. That is our opportunity. During that period do not let us be distracted by The market immediately before us. While supplying that market let us think and plan always for the period when Europe will be fully supplied and when we shall have developed new markets overseas. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State said that £110,000 of the £600,000 authorised under the 1935 Act had actually been used as loans. Why was not more used? I have heard that the Treasury made the conditions so onerous that the herring industry could get better conditions from the banks. It is certainly a remarkable thing that out of the £600,000 allocated for loans, only one-sixth was used.
I hope some attention will be given to that in the future. The industry must attract the young men after the war. We have to provide reasonable remuneration, with a chance at times, as we used to have 20 or 30 years ago, of big remuneration. We must have continuous employment. I think we should consider the dual purpose vessel, the drifter trawler, so that in the herring season they drift and the rest of the year they can use it for trawling. Finally, we must give these young men who go into the industry the chance that people had 30 or 40 years ago of working up and becoming owners of one vessel and gradually of more.
What kind of boats will the Board recommend? The report mentions that the Admiralty have been building boats that may be suitable. I do not believe that any of them will be suitable for the North Sea herring trade. There are some wooden boats. They are built, of necessity, of green wood. There were wooden boats built in the last war, and same of the herring people got them, but they were hopeless. We had to put in new wood and, after two years, more new wood. They were so heavy and unmanageable that they were useless. I feel that the tendency will be to recommend oil fuel.
1183 I hope it will not be 100 per cent. oil. We must not judge steam-boats by 3o year-old, out-of-date vessels. Methods of using coal are improving enormously. There are such things as powdered coal. The National Physical Laboratory, by one alteration in the hull of a vessel, reduced coal consumption by 25 per cent. There are all kinds of possibilities for coal. In 1938 I pointed out how foolish it would be to concentrate on oil for supplying our herring fleets, which might have to produce food in time of war, when we should be dependent on imported fuel. Leaving aside the questions of war and defence, we are faced with the difficulty of paying for our imports. Our ears are deafened with the cry, "We must export more and more to pay for imports." Why make our new herring fleet dependent on imported fuel when we can produce the fuel in our own country and use it by modern methods economically? I trust that that point will receive the attention of the Research Board, and also that they will glance at the question of producer gas, which has been used abroad in vessels up to 1,000 tons with some success.
I do not despair, by any means, of the future of this fine industry either in Scotland or in England. It has been through very dark days. It has been grossly neglected. I remember going on deputations to the Admiralty in the years before the war, asking for help, and they told us that our drifters were utterly useless for war purposes. But immediately war came three-quarters of them were commandeered, and their skippers went out on what was called "the suicide patrol" in these old boats, and they were magnificent. I have heard stories of their heroism, facing bombs and mines in these out-of-date boats. I shall never forget 10 days in October, 1934, when the sea off East Anglia was thick with herring. You could go out in a rowing boat and scoop them up in a bucket. There were 7,000 or 8,000 fishermen walking about the streets of Lowestoft and Yarmouth idle. The fleets were kept in port and these men were breaking their hearts, wondering what would happen to their families. They stopped me in the streets and said, "For God's sake do something." That kind of thing must not happen again. I believe this Bill will help enormously to ensure that it will not happen again. I believe also that after 1184 the war we shall not judge everything, as of old, by purely material, economic tests. We shall judge of industries by the quality and type of men they produce. Judged by that test, our fishing industry produces the finest type—men of courage, endurance and initiative, men who display in peace and in war the highest qualities whch have made our people a great nation.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor (Morpeth)
I welcome the Bill because of our knowledge of the very hard times which fishermen generally have experienced in the past. I welcome it also, because, once again, we are dealing with the first producer. It is remarkable that, as time goes by, we have been driven to the conclusion that the producer of the raw material must come into his own. He has not had his own up to now. I am glad that we have men in the Government like the Minister of Agriculture, who has endeavoured to put the first producer of raw material and food on an equality and on terms of fair play with those who have to handle the finished article. The Bill will give scope and enlargement to the Marketing Act. It is sometimes forgotten that it was a Labour Government, and a minority Government, which brought in the Marketing Act. It is under that Act that we are going to get some very considerable advantage for the fishermen of England. What a splendid work they have done during the war. I wonder how we should have managed without them to man our minesweepers, and how we should have kept our coasts open for our food supplies. Therefore, let us be done with mouthing nice phrases. Let us be done with paying homage during crises and forgetting what has been done when the crises have passed. That is what we used to do. I am prepared to do my best to prevent a repetition of that when the war is over. I welcome the Bill because I believe we are on the right lines.
I want to add my thanks for the White Paper under the chairmanship of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieutenant-Colonel Elliot). It is a splendid paper. There is not a great deal of whitewashing in it. It points to the weaknesses that exist in regard to the herring fishing industry. The Board proposes to deal with processing. I am very anxious that that should be 1185 done. I believe there is tremendous scope in regard to processing for herring. I sometimes wonder when I see the figures of the low sales of herring. What I wonder at, is that so few people get the opportunity to buy them. The White Paper says that low standard countries seem to buy them in great quantities, and they are the greatest market for our export. When I was young it was quite common among the working classes, especially in the North of England, to have a barrel of salt herring for the winter. Undoubtedly we did it largely because of the low standard of living of our people. My grandfather was a highly-skilled engine man, who had the lives of thousands of men in his hands. My grandmother many a time said she thought her fortune was made when she got 21S. a week to keep her family. It was necessary then, to pickle herrings to take us through the winter.
In those days people did not know anything about vitamins A, B, C, and D. The only thing they knew, the good old-fashioned housewives of the North of England, was to give the bairns something to eat and keep their tummies filled. "Do it when they are young and it will be there when they are old." We know about vitamins now. Therefore, it seems to me that whatever the income standard of the household to-day, if we can process herrings to a quality that the Board will determine, the demand should be tremendous. I was speaking to a real fisherman this week-end, a man who has followed the seas out of our Northern fishing villages for years, and he told me a remarkable thing. From the White Paper I gather that the difference between herring, halibut and cod is that, while the oil is in the liver of the halibut and the cod, it is in the flesh of the herring. This man told me that in the fishing season they boiled fish when they were at sea and had meals of the fish, and he never need put his coat on when he was fishing herring. That speaks very highly for the quality of the herring as a food.
With regard to marketing, is not this "the nigger in the wood pile," so far as our fishermen are concerned? The White Paper speaks of the monopolistic tendencies of importers overseas. It speaks of the weaknesses of human nature on this side in under-selling and the breaking of markets, even when they have had 1186 gentlemen's agreements. There is nothing new in that. We suffered from it in the coal trade years ago. I remember that in the Merchant Service before the war there was an endeavour to get an agreed freight, and things went on beautifully until somebody broke the market. We had a gentlemen's agreement in the coal trade, and then somebody sold a big parcel of coal below the market price and down it came. The provision in this Bill in regard to marketing is a very good one, because human nature is so prone to err.When self the wavering balance holds 'Tis rarely right adjusted.It is well that there should be a fraternal hand that will prevent poor erring mortals from wrecking and ruining a whole industry.
Much is to be said in regard to the equalising of prices. I was rather struck with some prices which I have taken from the White Paper. In 1934 the weight of herring in Great Britain is given as 4,786,914 cwts., at a value of £1,593,360. I worked that out as amounting to five-sevenths of a penny per pound. No industry could run on that. In 1942 the weight was 1,360,579 cwts., and the value was £1,820,625, or two and seven-eighths of a penny per pound. That is something like a fair price. The price per cran was £4 12S. The Ministry of Food, which has done such splendid work in preventing profiteering, has fixed the price for herring at 7d. per pound. I have never heard anybody begrudging that. I can say without any reservation that if we could again hear in our villages that old cry, "Caller herrin'," herrings would sell like anything. I remember the time when the moment the fish-seller entered one end of the village, with the cry of "Caller herrin'," the housewives were there with their dishes and plates.
I hope things will be different from what they are now, especially for the home sales of fish. I am largely interested in home sales because when we talk of the food shortages in Europe owing to the devastation, we must hot forget that we may have them here too. Therefore, herrings will be of great value to us. Taking a cran at 28 stone, it works out, at 7d. per pound, to per cran. My right hon. Friend said there was a great mystery about what a cran is. I understand that a basket is seven stone and 1187 there are four baskets in a cran. I hope that in equalising prices, the Board will have power to see that the retailer and the fishermen get fair prices, and I hope there will not be too wide a margin between the wholesale price and the price the consumer has to pay. When there is too wide a margin, it does as much harm as anything to the fishing industry.
I am interested in the question of dehydration. I have never tasted dehydrated herrings, but some of my friends who have, tell me they are first-rate. With a fish that has not long keeping qualities, dehydration provides a splendid opportunity for dealing with gluts of herrings. The freezing process is in its experimental stages, but there are great hopes for it. Has any thought been given to another freezing process which is growing in this country? Those of us who visited the Portal house were struck by the provision of a refrigerator. If we are to have refrigerators in the Portal houses, surely we will have them in the permanent houses. If we have them in the 4,000,000 houses that will have to be built, the saving in food will be enormous. Lately I have had to try to make a bottle of milk last three days, but often it went off on the second day. If I had had a refrigerator, I would have been able to save it. Would it not be nice if we could buy herrings and put them in a refrigerator where they could remain until they were wanted? We must certainly see that refrigerators are put into every house.
The great problem is to avoid waste. We have all heard of fish being thrown into the sea while people have gone hungry. Imagine one of our convoys coming back from across the Atlantic, after passing through U-boat infested waters and stormy weather, and on reaching our shores seeing herrings dumped into the sea because the price was wrong. I remember being struck as a boy with an incident in London's book "The Valley of the Moon." Roberts, one of the characters in that book, was on strike against a vicious system and, hungry, he went down to the harbour. There in the water he saw thousands of melons. He thought he was all right, but he found that they had all been nicked to allow the salt water to get into them because to put them on the market would spoil the price. Is it not a terrible thing that we have to dump into the sea the gifts that God has 1188 given us because it would spoil the price to put them on the market, when, at the same time, there are people who would be glad to have them?
I conclude by making a suggestion with regard to the lines of demarcation within which our men have to fish. The town in which I live is one of the greatest ports in the North of England. At one time, it had a thriving fishing industry. I do not know who took it away, but I suppose it was some of the vested interests. There are still, however, men fishing from that port. The line of demarcation is above the port and the fishermen have two ports of discharge. One is Seahouses and the other is Berwick. Seahouses is a dandy little place, but there are occasions when there has to be considerable waiting because of the tide. At a port like Blythe, they can fish in any tide. Our train services are better than those of Shields—although I am not trying to state a case against Shields. Would it not be wise to let one of the boats come into Blythe for the local distribution, and thus save petrol, transport and everything else, in addition to supplying the local market? I suggest that that idea might be brought to the notice of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. I have the greatest possible pleasure in welcoming the Bill. I am sure it will be of great benefit to the industry. I thank my right hon. Friend, and am glad that he has had the honour of introducing it.
§ Mr. Jewson (Great Yarmouth)
The Bill, coming as it does on the top of the admirable Command Paper 6503, is certainly to be welcomed as a recognition, tardy perhaps, of the national importance of the fishing industry. The great value of the industry to the country lies, I think, in the fact that it provides for the training of our seafaring men. Some people have thought that that importance would fade away with the tremendous development we have seen in recent years in air power, but recent events have shown us that, in spite of development of air power, the sea is still of as great importance as ever to us, as a bar to our enemies and as a road to ourselves. I do not think that henceforward we shall fait to realise how great an asset it is to these islands and the corresponding importance to us of the race of seafaring men, of whom we have been so proud in the past.
1189 As the right hon. Gentleman who opened the proceedings to-day said in his speech, the fishermen not only "go down to the sea in ships", but they also "do business in great waters." The second reason why I welcome the Bill is that it gives recognition to the importance of what those men produce in food. As my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) said, most of us regret that fisheries are tacked on, as it were, to the end of the Ministry of Agriculture. We think that they deserve something better—but possibly this is neither the time nor the place to argue that point. The Ministry of Agriculture are mainly concerned with seeing to the growth and the production of crops. Fisheries are a harvest only, of a crop which is produced for us free, gratis and for nothing; and perhaps, because harvest comes after sowing, fisheries have been inclined to be neglected while other matters have been attended to. I do not believe, after the introduction of this Bill, that that will happen in future.
The Bill is backed by an imposing list of Ministers. I was rather surprised to find that the Minister of Health was not among them, seeing that herring have been described by an eminent authority asideal for keeping the body healthy and resistant to disease.I hope that the Ministers who are responsible will enlist the Minister of Health as well, to do some propaganda for our home markets on those lines. I am glad to see that the Chancellor of the Duchy is one of those whose names appear on the Bill, because F take it that the herring will be kept well forward in the arrangements made by U.N.R.R.A. in the feeding of Europe. That will be a great help to us in getting off the mark when the war is over. With regard to the proposals in the Bill for helping the industry, I have only to say that I hope the help will not be hampered by too many or too severe restrictions. Our fishermen are an independent lot. They do not want to be spoon-fed. All they ask is that we should clear up for them the conditions produced by the war. I suggest that it is urgent for our own sake to get this industry into full employment at the earliest possible moment. We want to look at the matter from the national point of view and realise that it is important from that point of 1190 view, and not as if we were making a gift to some individual fishermen.
I have been asked very strongly by my constituents to stress the point, which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft in his admirable speech, about fishing which is carried on by companies. The description in the Bill of those who are' to receive grants is: "fishermen and persons." It is possible that we may be told that "persons" includes those who carry on fishing by means of companies. If not, we shall have to press to have the point put right at some stage in our consideration of the Bill. I hope that we shall be told quite definitely whether those who work their fishing through companies are included, or are intended to be included, in the benefits of the Bill, or whether they have been excluded intentionally; or, what I think is most probable, seeing that these conditions do not apply in Scotland, that they simply have been overlooked.
With regard to the export trade, it is obvious that the Government will have to take a large hand in dealing with it, in the transition period. I expect that the United Nations discussions on currency which are now taking place may affect it in many ways, and I am sure that export credits in some form will be necessary. I stress the point that the Russian market will be very important to us. I asked a Question about this matter not long ago, and I understand that the Board of Trade are actually negotiating at the present time with regard to what goods we are to exchange with Russia. I would like to ask again that it will be made sure that herrings are included in the goods which will be taken by our Russian friends. There are two sorts of market to look after, in exports; one is the old market, which I think we should make for first, partly because, as I think it is agreed, the eating of herrings preserved in salt is an acquired taste. There are countries where that taste has been acquired over many years, and other countries where it has not. The method of packing herring in salt in barrels is the least costly way of preservation, and so we should make sure that we get back, or retain, the market in the countries which have been used to eating herrings in that form. I think that Yarmouth had a particular interest in the Mediterranean trade, a description of which is well given in the White Paper.
1191 There is a list in the White Paper of the various methods of preserving herrings. It is fortunate that the herring lends itself to a great variety of such methods, and the variety is much greater than is set out in the White Paper. I notice that the list does not even include one method which was well known to me just before the war and was very popular in the district in which I live, called the buckling herring. I am encouraged by the provision in the Bill for research and experiment, which are very important indeed. I believe that many new methods of processing can be discovered and that our new markets, if we are to gain them, will probably want new methods.
I suggest here that they need not necessarily be cheap methods. In fact, the cheapness of the herring has in some cases been a handicap to its sale. People have thought that it was not of sufficient importance, as compared with high-priced fish like salmon, of which they were proud to get a bit. The fact that the herring has been cheap has made people almost ashamed to eat it. It is a curious point of view, but I believe it actually exists. It should be remembered, in connection with research and experiment, that even if a process produces a more expensive type of food, it need not necessarily be banned on that account. Speaking as a consumer, I think that the great quality that we want is freshness. In fact, freshness and quality are almost synonymous terms in the case of the herring, which deteriorates very rapidly when out of the water. I am glad that the Bill stresses quality and standards, which are both most important. I was glad to hear the Secretary of State for Scotland refer to the fact that East Anglian fishing had been completely stopped during the war. I have no doubt that that fact will be borne in mind when we come to the question of rehabilitation and that it will be realised that there will be a very special need for help in Great Yarmouth, and also, of course, in Lowestoft.
It is excellent that this matter is looked at from the start as temporary, and that it is hoped to wind it up within five years. I hope it will not be necessary to extend that time, and that we shall find, at the end of the time, that we have a healthy industry able to stand on its own feet, but nevertheless one which will never in 1192 future be neglected and lost sight of, as has been the case in the past. I hope the Bill will succeed in its object and will usher in an era of prosperity for a very valuable, hard-working and deserving section of our community.
§ Mr. Francis Beattie (Glasgow, Cathcart)
There are many bones in a herring, but there do not seem to be many bones of contention in the Bill. May I, at this point, pay a tribute to the report that has been made by the Elliot Committee and to the good work that the Committee has done? The report smacks of the sea, and recalls to my mind a report in which I had a very personal interest. Perhaps I may be allowed to say that a few months ago I made a reference to that report and that, upon re-reading my speech, I found that I might have created a wrong impression about the work that had been done by the secretaries to that Commission. I would like to say that I cannot find words that could put a high enough value on their work. It would be wrong of me to leave a carelessly spoken passage and not attempt to put it right.
I will not criticise the financial aspect of the Bill. I only say that I think it is 10 years too late and that any finance that comes to help this very excellent industry is only too welcome. The Board is something I would like to say a word upon. I see from the Bill that the Board is to function only on a future date. 'The hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. H. Stewart) asked whether it would be possible to say anything about the composition of the Board. I do not know whether the Minister proposes to do so, but I would stress that the three independent Members should be paid the highest possible salaries. The chairman should have a salary equal to a top-rate civil servant and the other two should be quite independent. of the industry and have suitable remuneration. I know about the 21 members who composed the Advisory Council, and I think it was suggested by the Sea Fish Commission's report that nine would be a better number. There is no doubt that the Board will have to take quick, and sometimes very skilful, decisions. I regret that they are not to operate until some future date, for what I visualise is that these people should be getting down to work now in order that they can put 500,000 1193 cwts. of cured herring on the breakfast plates of the people of Europe. That is what is wanted.
The problem of marketing has been mentioned many times. There are two markets, home and abroad. I will say this about the market abroad, that that Board will have to find not one high pressure salesman but many. They will have a very difficult task to perform in getting into that market because other countries will be trying to get into the European and Mediterranean markets as well, so it requires very real salesmanship and getting there quickly. Regarding the home market I was greatly struck by paragraph 100 of the Elliot Report, in which it says:It is at least doubtful if consumers in some large centres of population ever know of indeed, even have known, what it is to enjoy a herring in the very best condition.I am not a bit surprised at that, and I would like to ask whether the housewives of Great Britain know that the herring is the cleanest little fish that swims in the sea. It is a vegetarian; it feeds off the lush meadows of the sea. As the Secretary of State said, they are rightly called "Silver Darlings." They may not be rich in calories, but as my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) said, they are mighty rich in vitamins. I think they have all the vitamins in the alphabet.
§ Mr. R. J. Taylor
Per pound of herring to pound of egg the calories are, I think, higher for herring than for eggs.
§ Mr. Beattie
I said that they might not be rich in calories, but that they are mighty rich in Vitamins. That is the point I was making. It is perhaps unfair that I should mention this at this time but the distribution of herrings at present is not very satisfactory. I would like to give an example. One night I was standing in a railway station and herring were being taken out of a railway van and placed on the platform. A strong wind was blowing, and an engine was standing blowing off smoke and steam. The herring were uncovered. I know for a fact that these herring had been caught that morning, had been landed at a port on the Clyde. They were being taken to a town on the Solway Firth. They were uncovered; they would only get into the market of that Solway Firth town the next morning; an entire day and night would 1194 have elapsed before the good burghers of that particular township got the herrings. Were they fresh? I would say they were not. I drew the attention of the Minister of Food to this condition and permits have been granted for herring being sent by rail to be covered. I understand they still go by road uncovered and it is not a very happy way to transport herring or for the fisher folk to expect them to get into the hands of the consumers in a palatable state.
There was one interesting fact that came out many years ago in a survey made on herrings. One of the points that struck me very much was that women of 35—this survey is 10 years old—liked herring, and women under 35 did not. That struck me as being an extremely interesting point. The explanation was quite simple. It was that the women of 35 had been brought up on herring before 1914. They had the taste and knew its value. It was the women under 35 who had not had the taste of herring and did not like the smell of the cooking. It seemed to me valuable to get into the minds of these housewives that herring is of great value.
We have heard something about freezing and dehydration. I was glad to learn, of the progress that has been made in freezing, but I was a little unhappy to find also that it was in an experimental state; I think that is what the Secretary of State for Scotland said. I was going to say to him that I hoped it was economic to freeze. My recollection of freezing fish was that halibut was the only one that was economic, because you could put 2d. or 3d. a pound on the price and no one would notice. The price given is a halfpenny per herring, and I hope every effort will be made to reduce the cost of freezing, as it is so essential to get herring fresh into the homes of the people at the lowest possible cost. No mention was made in the Elliot Report about hygiene. I was very interested in what the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) said about kippers, bcause it is there that hygiene should play a big part. Kippering is done nowadays by dipping the fish in pyrogallic acid, and you can get a rich colour or a light one. After they are dyed they are put on tenterhooks and smoked, but the urgency of the market is such that they are not smoked very well, and there is about two ounces of water in these kippers. They are expected to keep for a certain time. My recollection was 1195 that in the old days a kipper would not keep more than seven days.
All I have to say—I do not want to criticise the industry too much—is that the Board must see that there is very close inspection of these various establishments connected with fishing, particularly at the dyeing stage. It does not do the industry any good for people to know that the dye is not changed more than once in three weeks, in some instances. I hope that will be given attention. I hope it will not be forgotten it is possible to market a kipper in a happy sort of way. For instance, there were all sorts of transparent coverings available before the war, and I hope these will be available again. We have heard something about dumping. That always appears to be news. It is put in the paper in headlines, and all the rest of it. I am glad to see in the Bill that something is dealt with which is just as appalling as dumping, that is, the loss of gear. One does not often read in the Press that in one night a fleet of herring boats may lose £50,000 worth of gear sunk by storm, or because of a great glut of fish sinking the nets. I am very glad to see that provision has been made in the Bill for the purpose of replacing that lost gear. The dumping of herring does not always mean that the herring are good and are being sent back. Very often they are bad herring. An effort should made to retrieve them, not as food for human consumption, but for manufacturing into fish manure or fish meal. They should not be wasted.
One other point is the question of the three-mile limit. I do not know whether I am getting out of Order in bringing this in, but I do wish the Secretary of State and the Minister of Agriculture to pay particular attention and do all in their power——
§ Mr. Beattie
I am sorry. I will turn to Norwegian imports. I see from the Elliot Report that some 300,000 cwts., on an average, in the pre-war years were imported into this country. They could import up to a limit of 500,000 cwts. I understand that one of the reasons for the importation of these Norwegian herring was to maintain what is called the balance 1196 of trade. I do not want to say anything about the Norwegians, but I say this—charity begins at home. There is no lack of gear, catching capacity, fishermen or of herring, but what is very often lacking, in my opinion, is the application of modem methods and discoveries. What are required are ample cold storage facilities in the big herring ports for quick freezing, refrigerated railway and road vans for the proper distribution of fish and a quick-freeze cabinet in every fishmonger's shop. I hope that this Bill will go through quickly and that it will give help and encouragement in plenty to the gallant men and women of a great industry.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
I was very pleased to hear the Minister pay high tribute to those hardy and very generous people who sail the seas in search of food for the people of this country. But my mind goes back to the situation that existed between the wars. The fishermen in my own area, and up in the North of Scotland, were reduced to the depth of poverty, with no apparent hope of getting out of it. The neglect of the fishing industry in the period between the wars is something that cannot in any circumstances be excused. One hon. Member made a reference to the fact that this Bill is To years too late. There is something to be said for that, but in view of the part which the fishermen played in saving this country during the last war, and the immediate part they had to play when this war broke out, it is to be hoped that the neglect experienced by the fishermen in the period between the wars will not be repeated, in any circumstances, when this war is ended. The first Sub-section in the first Clause of the Bill says:a grant made under this section in respect of any boat or equipment shall not exceed one-third of the total cost thereof;That may be considered very generous but I remember a question being raised in this House regarding the proposition that had been made and was to be operated in America by which the State would guarantee to men coming back from the Forces so per cent. of a loan up to £1,000. When the war is over, it will not be enough to offer one-third of the cost to fishermen who have not the means of getting a boat. Something of the character of the provision which is 1197 being introduced in America will be required. The Board must be ready to guarantee a loan, if a fisherman requires to negotiate one. It will not be sufficient to pay one-third of the cost. Every step should be taken to ensure fishermen getting the fullest opportunity of engaging in an industry, which is not only important to themselves, but is so important to the people of this country.
Mr. Petheriek (Penryn and Falmouth)
Is the hon. Member advocating that loans should be available, in full, to enable fishermen to buy their own boats?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Any fisherman who has been giving service during the war should be treated just like the men coming back from the Forces. If a fisherman has only £2 or £3 at the end of the war, and has all the qualifications for using a boat, I would put the Board in a position not only to grant a loan of one-third of the cost, but to guarantee the rest of the loan. Then, if a fisherman wanted to negotiate a loan, he would have no trouble in doing so.
§ Mr. Petherick
So that he could buy his boat? I am very grateful to the hon. Member for that tribute to capitalism.
§ Mr. Gallacher
If I had control of the Treasury, wherever there was a qualified fisherman, who had given service in the small boats which are sailing the coast at present, and who wanted a boat, he would get a boat. We come to the question of markets. Not only were the fishermen neglected between the wars, but the Conservatives in this House, the Conservative Press, and the Conservative Government did everything humanly possible to destroy the great Russian market.
§ Sir E. Findlay
May I interrupt, not as an authority on nonsense, but because I have represented the herring fishing industry since 1935, and apart from my Parliamentary position, I have done my best to look after the herring fishing industry? I resent bitterly the hon. Member's statement that the Conservative Government have not done their best for the industry.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am quite prepared to accept—in fact, I believe other Members will agree—that the hon. Member has done everything possible for the herring industry. But it is a fact—and I could produce miles of material from the OFFICIAL REPORT—that vile things were said by the Members of the Government, and vile things were said in the Press, and high fates were put on all transactions with Russia—out of all proportion to those for dealings with any other country—and everything possible was done to destroy the great Russian market. I would ask that, in future, Conservative Members of this House and the Conservative Press of this country should try to keep in mind that there is a 20 years' Agreement between this country and the Soviet Union, and that that Agreement provides an opportunity for developing a very big market in many directions. Do not let their anti-Bolshevik venom blind them to that.
I would like to say something about the home market. When I was a very young lad, I used to go down to Saltcoats for a week in the summer holidays. Every morning at five o'clock the quay was crowded with people, waiting for the herring boats to come in. Anyone going there at five o'clock in the morning would find coming from every window and every doorway, in every street, the steam from frying herrings. But in recent years, I have been to one of the Highland fishing ports; and could you get any herring there? No. But if you go there at midnight, you see the lorries come rolling in, and everything is sent away. There are all sorts of ramps going on in connection with herring. The Minister has drawn attention to Clause 2 of the Bill, in which the Board are given power to make a levy where there is unevenness in prices, to smooth things out. In answer to an interjection, the Minister said that the Board had sorted things out considerably, by fixing prices. I do not mind the fishermen owning their own boats, although I am quite in favour of the proposition that the Board should have boats available, to hire out to fishermen who do not own their own boats, but I say that the fishermen can never get justice and security, and the people of this country can never get the food which they ought to get, unless there are control and direction of the industry 1199 in this country. The present position is chaotic.
The hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. R. J. Taylor) drew attention to the difficulties of getting fish in his own area. Because of the way the market works, the fisherman is at the mercy of all kinds of middlemen. How is it possible to have justice with private enterprise? I insist, again, that I would give every fisherman a boat, without any hesitation; but what sort of justification can there be for a statement such as the Scottish Secretary made to-day, that between the first lot of herring that came in and were bought and the last lot that came in and were bought there was a difference of 26s. per cran? That is private enterprise. It is anarchy, chaos. There cannot be anything else under that system. The 20 years' Agreement gives an opportunity for developing the best relations with the Soviet Union, and the possibility of a very big and desirable market. The organisation of the market at home is absolutely essential if the fishermen are to get justice, and if the people of this country arc to get that valuable food.
§ Major McCallum (Argyll)
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) mentioned a port, a Highland port, and I think I know the one he has in mind. I feel, as he does, that something is wrong when one is unable to go down to the quay and buy herring as one used to do. I would like to come back to that point in a minute or two. I know that there are many Members who want to speak, but I would like to say to my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland how very much I and my constituents welcome this Bill. We hope that it will have a quick passage through Parliament, and that the Herring Industry Board, the resuscitation of which was recommended by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot), in his very interesting and valuable Report, will start to function as soon as possible. I was very interested when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State read out a telegram that he had received from Provost McNair, of Campbeltown. Provost McNair is a personal friend of mine, and a man who knows as much about herring fishing from the West Highland ports as any man living. He spoke of 1200 that most important association of fishermen, the Clyde Fishermen's Association. I am sure that their good wishes will be endorsed all up and down the West coast of Scotland.
There are three points about the powers that are to be given to the resuscitated Board to which I want to refer. The most important, I think, is one to which the hon. Member for West Fife referred, the question of the marketing of herring. For two or three years past, I have carried on correspondence with the Ministry of Food in an endeavour to have amendments made in the system of marketing herring landed at West coast ports. I have had no success until the last letter I received, saying that the question of a revision of the allocation of quotas to buyers is to be considered after this season. I wonder why it was not possible to revise it before this season was upon us. It is to be hoped that the Board will take this in hand very speedily, and make the necessary recommendations to the Ministries concerned that these buying quotas shall be awarded fairly to the firms and individuals who buy the herring when they are landed at the ports. Another point to which I was glad to hear the Secretary of State refer—he has referred to it on previous occasions—is that of the powers given to the Board for the provision of freezing machinery. We in the West Highland ports have often thought that in one or two of them there might be installed some, not necessarily great refrigerating machinery, but medium-sized refrigerating machinery, which could cope with the surplus fish landed in time of glut. One hon. Member referred, I think, to the fact that, when a glut occurs in herring fishing, the fish are dumped back into the sea because they are generally in a soft condition, not in a condition to keep. If they were able to transfer this fish direct to cold storage, surely it would be the means of saving such fish from being wasted.
There is one point about which I would like to ask the Secretary of State, and on which, perhaps, he would make recommendations to the Board, and that is regarding the powers given under the Bill for providing equipment and improving equipment for the fishing fleets, and by equipment I take it that good harbours or improvements to harbours are included. I would ask that the Board should bear 1201 in mind the necessity for improving, and, in one or two cases, even providing, good safe anchorage and harbourage for the herring fishing boats.
Finally, I want to ask my right hon. Friend if, before this Bill comes up for the Committee stage, consideration can be given to the point about the control to be taken by the Board over the trade in general. My constituents, and I believe fishermen all over the West coast, feet that the wholesalers dealing in the herring landed at the ports should be licensed in some form or other under the Board or by the Department, and should be controlled, but that control should not be too strict, if necessary at all, on the retailer and what is known as the hawker. I say that not because I wish to be prejudiced against one particular part of the industry, for after all, we all wish to encourage, as many hon. Members have said, the home omarket. We feel that no handicap or obstacle should be put in the way of retailers and hawkers, and, therefore, there should not be the necessity for such strict control over them, but, regarding wholesalers, we feel that there must be very strict control and that all wholesalers dealing in herring should have to take out a licence from the Department of Fisheries in England or the Scottish office in Scotland. As things are at present, wholesale firms can do what they like and cannot be put out of business by the Department, whereas the poor retailer or hawker can have his licence refused and be put out of business straight away. We feel that there should be justice for all parts of the industry, and therefore I would ask my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State if that point could be borne in mind when the Bill has received its Second Reading.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
There are a number of points which I was going to make in regard to the sale and distribution of fish, but which were quite fully dealt with by the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum). If I stress the Scottish angle of the Bill to-day, perhaps I may be pardoned, in view of the very important part which Scotland and Scottish fisheries play in the national industry, and if I keep, for certain examples, to the most familiar background of my own constituency, perhaps I shall be pardoned for doing so. Shortly before the war, I re- 1202 member asking a Question in the House regarding the number of men of the Royal Naval Reserve recruited from the Outer Hebrides and the Western Isles. The figure was something like 25 per cent. of the British recruitment to the Royal Naval Reserve. But we have had, along with that, another distinction. At the port of, Stornoway we reached an unemployment figure of over 63 per cent. at a certain period during the last pre-war years of the herring fishing industry. That distinction was less enviable, but the same men were affected by it as had the distinction of contributing 25 per cent. of the R.N.R. recruitment. It is very discouraging to see, on the one hand, this tremendously disproportionate call made on the sacrifice and patriotism of our people in war-time and on the other hand the neglect to which they are subjected in peace-time, and it is with the hope that, for the future, we will eliminate at least one of these distinctions—the unenviable one—that we welcome this Bill and hope to see it in operation in the very near future in a more effective way than has been the case with previous Acts for the expected benefit of the herring fishing industry.
We should have more control in Scotland in matters connected with the Scottish herring fishing industry. Yet we have the Herring Board in London, and Treasury control in London, and when applications come from Scotland, there is a feeling of remoteness about the attitude of London to Scottish fisheries that would not be there if these applications could be made to Edinburgh and dealt with there. The fisheries are in Scotland and the proportion of the Scottish population, compared with England's, engaged in the fishing industries is about seven to one. We have had in Scotland for about 6o years the Fishery Board, which England had not the distinction of possessing. [An HON. MEMBER: "It died."] We have been on rather more sympathetic terms with it. One has the feeling that a little more decentralisation of ultimate control in the herring industry would be better for the Scottish industry as a whole. There is a great difference between the English and the Scottish industries. In England it is a great deal more centralised than in Scotland, with control in the hands of a smaller number of large and growingly powerful companies, whereas, in Scotland, 1203 there is not the same tendency to the same extent. You have practically a race apart of fishermen, not centralised in the larger towns, but scattered amongst the hamlets and islands of the Hebrides and nearly all round the North, East and West coasts. There are all these differences between the two industries, and I, therefore, hope that these special Scottish conditions will be taken into review.
There is another point which I would like to stress which has been mentioned by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). Before the war preference was given to the Norwegians, and the Norwegian industry flourished; while gluts were experienced in Scotland and herrings were dumped and fishermen went idly about towns and the country districts looking for work. I hope the Board will see that our own fishermen get preferential treatment in future at all times. Regarding vessels, I am afraid we are going to be up against a difficult position at the end of this war, when we shall gradually but soon have to scrap practically every boat in use. At the beginning of this war, I think that more than go per cent. of the boats were nearly 30 years old. No new vessels were then being built in Scotland, but a few old ones have been bought secondhand from England. With regard to the grants, I agree with those hon. Members who expressed dissatisfaction with the one-third basis. Dealing with costs, the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Loftus) mentioned a figure of over £7,000.
§ Mr. Loftus
It was £8,000 before the war, or £7,700 in 1937, and it would be at least double that to-day.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I was rather surprised at that, but I accept my hon. Friend's figures. I think the figure to-day would be rather round about £12,000, and one-third of that would be £4,000. It would be impossible to expect anybody such as an ex-Service man, to go back into the industry in debt to the extent of at least £8,000. I hope the Board will see its way to increasing the grant, or to making some special arrangements in respect of loans in addition to those in the Bill, in order to help men going back into the industry. If the Government want men to go back or come anew into the industry; they must realise that it must be made to pay them. They must have some 1204 guarantee that their labour will be paid for without getting into debt or being forced to go out of the industry or emigrating ultimately abroad. Otherwise the herring industry will not revive and will not survive.
There must be better conditions in the industry, or it will not attract young men into it, and there must be some guarantee that there will not be unemployment whenever there is an overseas depression. In order to do that, we must have markets, and, in order to have markets, we must have overseas agreements on a longterm basis. This year-to-year business which we have had in the past, is no use whatever. We remember how, in the pre-war years, the German Government's fisheries department came in, fixed their prices at their own level, and forced the Scottish fishermen to dump their herring because of the uneconomic prices. The question of getting women into the industry is going to be a desperately difficult one because we shall not attract young women out of the Forces and good industrial work to jobs like herring-gutting and packing unless we make the conditions better than they are to-day, pay them better wages and give them continuous employment. It is not a job that anybody is too willing to do even under the best conditions and for the best wages, and we have to face up to it and find them a guaranteed wage and continued employment. We shall also have to make an effort, before the war ends, to recapture overseas markets, and notably the Russian market, which was lost for political reasons in the past. Russia could no longer regard us as a reliable supplier, when we were prepared, on political grounds, to break off relations for all sorts of political reasons. Norway's Government gave a full financial guarantee to her fishermen, who supplied Russia and they got the market and Russia did not default one pennyworth. That was a market which we lost for political trivialities——
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
I do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend or rake up any past disputes, but I really cannot let his statement pass. I was responsible at the time for the sale of these herring—I 'was Secretary for Overseas 'Trade for three-and-a-half years —and I must say that the hon. Member's 1205 statement is quite devoid of any foundation.
§ Mr. MacMillan
The right hon. Gentleman must accept his own share of responsibility for the fact that the country suffered—not only the herring industry, but all our own people—because of the Government's political attitude to Russia, and because of the folly of the deliberate breaking of diplomatic relations for political reasons. The Russians, if asked, would give the real reasons for it. There was a market, the greatest we had, along with the German and Polish market, and we lost is completely till finally, before this war, Russia was exporting fish, and we were actually importing fish from Russia—and even from Japan. Something in this relationship was radically wrong. I hope that we shall see the recovery of this part, at least, the greatest of our markets, though they have developed their own industry to-day to such an extent that perhaps it is a doubtful matter.
There is some hope of being able to expand the home market provided we can make the products more attractive to those who are prejudiced against it, and cheap and easily acceptable to those who want it, which it is not at present. We may offer guaranteed prices to the fishermen and still have a reasonable price for the consumer, and, at the same time, cut out a good deal of the handling by middle men in the industry who are contributing nothing whatever to the fishing industry. We must have little regard for those of the middle-men who are unnecessary and are merely parasites on the industry. There should be even now no real supply difficulty; so that anybody who wants to buy herring should find it available in every town and fish shop, but at present it is not available, even in ports where we catch the herring, including Stornoway. You could not buy good salt herring in Stornoway during the last four years. We have taken it up with the Ministry of Food year after year and they once sent us something from Iceland, partly for political reasons —that we can partly understand in wartime—which the Government called cured herring; but regarding which we knew better in the Isles.
I look forward to the Bill—in spite of the little asides in which the Minister 1206 and I have engaged—doing a great deal of good in the industry. It is welcomed, unquestionably, by fishermen and by their representatives. The real thing we look forward to is to see its application in a reasonably short time; and to get its foundations laid now, as the Secretary of State for Scotland said, so that immediately the whistle blows, we may be able to get on with the job.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot (Glasgow, Kelvingrove)
It would be churlish if I did not acknowledge, on behalf of the Committee, the generous tributes which have been paid by the Minister and other speakers and which were entirely due not to the work of the Chairman but to the work of the Committee, many of whom had had practical experience of the industry themselves, such as our excellent skipper, Mr. James Watt, and others. All had had first-hand experience of one aspect or another of the trade. The remarkable thing was that we were able to produce a unanimous Report. I rather wish that I had had my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) with me as a member of that Committee. Some of those rather wilder statements in which he indulged towards the end of what when he. began was an excellent speech would not have been said. It would be a great pity if it went out to the world from here that any Government omitted to do their utmost to develop the Russian market. If hon. Members will read the Report to which they have paid so much tribute, they will see that the Russians have expanded their own herring fishing industry 99 times. [Interruption.] If the hon. Member thinks that the Russians have not in the last few years developed an enormous drive towards producing in their own country, he must be very blind to the admirable descriptions they have given to the whole world, and not least to the Members of this House. None of us blames the Russians for developing their fisheries. They have developed their fisheries, but an expansion of 99 times is a very considerable expansion. Expansion has taken place in German fishing also. It went up to 1,000,000 tons, and I wish, in the first place, to warn the industry and the country on the occasion of this Debate against too great a reliance on the complete recapture of those markets after the war. These countries 1207 also desire to have a fishing industry. The great Soviet Union is developing its fishing industry at Murmansk and on the Caspian Sea and elsewhere, and it is useless for us to suppose that it is going to give that up on our account. Here we have certainly a very great industry which has still great new markets to find and develop not in other fishing countries, but in countries which do not possess sea coasts visited by great shoals of herring.
We did our best to stress in the Report —and it is well worth saying again—that the catch of herring by, our own country alone is equal to half the import of meat from South America, and the total North Sea catch is double that import. If you add the white fish catch the landings of fish in this country equal all the production of home beef, plus all the production of home mutton and lamb and all the production of home pork put together. The fishermen in these islands catch over 1,000,000 tons of fish, which is practically as great as the whole of the output of our enormous livestock industry, beef, mutton and pork added together. That is a colossal figure and it is landed by men who, the Secretary of State for Scotland said, are landing 25 tons a man in the case of the herring industry, and 35 tons a man in the case of the white fish industry. I press this on the attention of both Fisheries Ministers—at the outbreak of war four-fifths of the drifters were requisitioned. That is a very considerable figure. In my experience, at the outbreak of war, there are two things upon which Departments simply hurl themselves—one is schools and the other is drifters. They take them away from their legitimate user and devote them entirely to the needs of war. This is all right and no doubt necessary for the first, second and third year. When it comes to the fourth and fifth year of war, it might possibly be suggested in drifters as in schools that either Departments should hand some of these back or there should be some new construction, shipbuilding potential allotted towards producing this equipment, whereby men can produce food more quickly than in almost any other way open to us in this world. Send our fishing fleets out into the North Sea either for white fish or herring to bring them back and land them in this country. It 1208 is the most efficient way of utilising certain categories of man-power open to us at the moment. Whether in munitions or anything else, there is no way in which you can produce 25 tons per man per annum of the same high quality product as you will by fishing among the shoals which are now present in the North Sea.
Our examination of the problem led us to the conclusion that there would be, in the years immediately after the war, a sellers' market which would lick up everything it could get, but later on we would have to be very careful to ensure that this boom was not followed by a slump. Therefore, our proposals for organisation were devoted to dealing not only with the immediate problem but with the long distance problem. The Minister rightly said that under this Bill they did not propose to set up the Board with full powers so long as the war-time power of the two Ministries and the Ministry of Food persisted. That is only right, but they take upon themselves a great responsibility for not merely operating the industry to the full just now, but laying the foundations for the future developments to which we have to look. I notice that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Food, speaking of the arrangement with the curing industry, said, and I quote from "The Times" of 74th June, that:Any pickle-cured herring not required for the home market would be very useful in feeding liberated Europe.I put it to him that that is scarcely the atmosphere of urgency which is required. If the accounts which have been given of the great shortage of food in liberated Europe are correct, these steps will be nothing like adequate. I ask him particularly to give attention to it and insist on attacking it with something of the same vigour and drive devoted by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to the expansion of home grown grain.
At the end of the war food will be a munition of peace of the greatest importance. So do not let us use any plant under its maximum potential. Do not let us use the quick-freezing plants for instance as places where fish can be stored in low temperature, a cool store. Do not waste the enormous potential power of freezing and passing on large quantities through a quick-freeze plant by frittering 1209 it away as a sort of cellar or lodging house where fish may be kept. If there is not sufficient accommodation for the subsequent storage of that fish I would put the construction of such accommodation also into the category of war potential. At the end of the war, the man who can hand out food to starving Europe will have a political weapon in his hand of the very greatest importance. If such steps are not taken when the harvest is available, now, when the shoals are going past the great fishing ports of this country, we shall look in vain for them if a sudden collapse of the war takes place, in winter when the shoals have passed and there is no longer an opportunity to catch and bring forward the food for which Europe will cry, although it may cry in vain.
I was most interested in the practical parts of the speech of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) because it showed a certain degree of approximation to the views of Members on this side. Or shall I say, Members on this side show a certain approximation to the views of the hon. Member for West Fife; or let us say when two practical men look at the same problem they very often come to the same solution of the problem although their reasons for the solution may be very different. I cannot, however, deplore too much the expression of opinion to which he gave vent about the fact that this country has not tried to develop its herring trade with Russia. I have already spoken about that in answer to the speech of the hon. Member for the Western Isles, so I will not repeat it except to say that the Minister then responsible for exporting all herring and I, who was responsible for the production of herring, both denied the charge, and if he wants any further denials I shall be happy to get them.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I was not referring to particular Ministers. When the right hon. Gentleman was Secretary of State he did everything possible. I was referring to the general political attitude of the Government and of the Conservative Party and of Conservative Members towards the Soviet Union and of the financiers to the conditions laid down for Credit to the Soviet Union.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
It would be a long job to go over all these most interesting points just now, but these are points on which we differ and I only register my difference in a most emphatic way. I 1210 want to come to the points on which we agree, because that it what is going to matter to the fishermen. The hon. Member for West Fife said that a grant of one third was not enough and that there should be provision for loans. But there is considerably extended provision for loans in the Bill. The provision for grant is provision for outright grant, but the provision for loans is also greatly enlarged. I would call the attention of the hon. Member for West Fife and the hon. Member for the Western Isles to a further point which, I think, is one of the most interesting points in the Bill—the provision for chartering boats to fishermen by the Board. You have there the combination of the collective credit of the nation, in the shape of the Board, and the private enterprise of the individual operating for profit. I think it is true, as the hon. Member for the Western Isles said, that £12,000 is an enormous sum for a small man to undertake, even if he gets one-third grant. He boggles at the thought of a loan even from the Herring Board of £8,000, because he realises the point which many of our financiers do not realise, that it is easier to get into debt than out of debt. But the Board in such case could charter a boat and he could try out his luck—I think a most interesting possible development—and see whether it would not be possible for him to make a living. It would thereby deal with the problem of finance for the little man in a way which would be quite impossible under present conditions.
There is one more point I would like to mention, the question of social security. We recommended in the Report that it should be possible for these levies, for which the Bill makes provision, to be used for such purposes if necessary, and if the scheme could be worked out properly, for the purpose of social security. We thought that possibly this was a case where insurance by industry might be operated. Our trade union representative, who signed that portion of the Report with the others, was most interested in the proposals for social security. I am not quite sure—and I would like an answer from whoever will reply later—as to whether it is possible under the Bill for the levies to be used, if the scheme is found necessary and practicable, for the purpose of dealing with insurance. As we all know, the individual fishermen are placed in a difficult position when they 1211 fall upon evil days. The whole of the law about that is very complicated indeed. We also made a recommendation that the Law Officers might look into it with a view to clarifying it. I am glad to see one of the Law Officers sitting on the Front Bench. I would like to call his attention to that portion of the Report.
These are the points which I wish to make. It is hoped that the Board will be of great service to the industry. It is of great importance to note that every single person who came before us said, "Do not ask us to elect this Board; let it be chosen by responsible people, by the Ministers." We put a clause in specially so that, if and when the industry wished to elect its own Board, it can do so. We are all for self-government in industry but this industry—and it has been said with the greatest emphasis on several occasions —said, "Do not ask us at the moment to govern ourselves, because we shall make a mess of it." It is very seldom you find people far-sighted enough to say that the ordinary clichés of to-day do not apply to them. I think "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and a reverence for democracy is the best assurance that it will be properly worked in the long run. I hope very much that it will be possible eventually for these developments to take place, but meanwhile on the Board will fall this great responsibility. On the Ministers, until the Board comes into existence, rests this responsibility. Let us hope they will discharge this responsibility in the far-reaching and vigorous way the House obviously wishes, as has been shown in the Debate to-day.
§ Sir Murdoch MacDonald (Inverness)
Like every other speaker to-day may I also be allowed to congratulate the Secretary of State for Scotland on a Bill which, in my view, is not only necessary now but will be of immense importance to an industry which, as has been pointed out by many Members, has suffered grievously in the inter-war period. In view of all that has been said I rise only to draw attention to one point. The right hon. and gallant Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) referred to refrigeration and said that under the powers contained in this Bill it would be possible for somebody to erect refrigerating stations on a semi- 1212 commercial scale. The writers of the Report recommended that the Herring Fishery Boards when constituted should have the power to execute experiments on a semi-commercial scale, but I think the stage has passed for a semi-commercial scale, and it is quite evident that the Bill envisages commercial proceedings. Clause 4 refers to the making of loans to any society or organisation for the purposes of refrigeration. That, in my view, implies that these societies or organisations will be responsible for the erection of the refrigerating plant. The Secretary of State for Scotland introduced a very valuable Hydro-Electric Bill for Scotland quite recently, and it is now an Act, in which a new Board was instituted which was given power to collaborate—as far as its duties as laid down in the Act permitted—for the social and economic improvement of the Highlands of Scotland. If anyone looks at the map he will see that a very great number of the herring fisheries stations are in that area. It may well be that it will not, owing to their duties, be within the power of that particular Hydro-Electric Board to erect a refrigerating plant, although they might quite well collaborate in giving electricity at as cheap a rate as possible. Failing that new body being able to erect these stations, the question will arise, What society or organisation can erect them? It may well happen that business societies can be found in large towns like Aberdeen, Lowestoft, Great Yarmouth, and many other large stations round the coast, but on the West coast of Scotland in particular. Many harbours and piers, I understand—even where erected originally by the Government, through what was called the Congested Districts Board—now really belong to the county councils, or the Secretary of State for Scotland is endeavouring to get the county councils to assume responsibility. If they do, the further duty might be placed upon them at these stations to erect refrigerating plants and they could collaborate, in the words of the Hydro-Electric Power Act, with the new Board:to get electricity at the very cheapest possible rate.Although some of these smaller stations may not be of the magnitude of Aberdeen and the bigger stations, yet these would prove, owing to the arrangements I am suggesting, a commercial undertaking. Two new hydro-electric schemes have just been announced, one at Mallaig on 1213 the West coast of Scotland in my own constituency, another at the Kyle of Lochalsh in the constituency of the right hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. M. MacDonald) which, for the moment, I happen to be looking after. In these two cases where the harbours belong to the railway companies, it might well be that the new Hydro-Electric Board should be asked, under the terms of the Act which lay down their duties, to collaborate with the county councils to erect refrigerating stations. I see a very great difficulty in getting any society or organisation to go to these places, though it may be quite conceivably possible in the larger places such as Aberdeen, Lowestoft, Yarmouth and the other great fishing ports round the country. I therefore suggest very strongly to the Secretary of State for Scotland that he should consider how refrigerating stations could be erected at these places.
§ Mr. Leslie (Sedgefield)
I am glad that the Government have considered the herring industry of sufficient importance to introduce this Bill. The herring industry has been of major importance to my native isles for generations. Around the sea-girt Isles of Shetland herring fishing has been carried on for centuries. The Dutch were the first to discover this fertile fishing ground, and there was a time when boats from Iceland, Ireland, and the Isle of Man and from ports in Scotland vied with boats from Holland, Prussia, France and the Scandinavian countries for the harvest of the sea around the Shetland coast. Russia and Germany were the greater buyers of the herring. Then came the slump and, between the two wars, our fishermen certainly had a very lean time. It was no uncommon occurrence for the men, after a night's hard toil, to have to dump their catch back into the sea for lack of buyers. On one day I was there over 8,000 craps of herring were dumped into the sea. One hon. Member said that instead of wasting the fish in that way, it could have been converted into manure. That is perfectly true but it so happens that on the island opposite Lerwick where there is a manure factory it is a long way from the shore, and the men had to take their fish up there if they wanted to get rid of it, and they were only allowed something like 2S. 6d. a cran. They did not think it worth while, and therefore dumped their catch into the ocean.
1214 It is good to know that in this Bill some provision is made to prevent this waste of human food. Refrigeration and processing, if operated on a sufficiently large scale, will certainly be of immense vaue. If people only knew the nutritional value of herrings as food, there would be a greater demand for them, and the Government should adopt some method whereby the people could be encouraged to eat more herring. The B.B.C. could be utilised in that way and there might be advertisements in the principal newspapers and by way of films. Boats are certainly badly needed, as well as harbour improvement, nets, and fuel. Fuel is a very costly item, and I think that some concession should be made in the price of fuel to the fishermen. Then again there was an experiment made by a relative of mine in spotting herring by means of an aeroplane. The Government might suggest that planes should go out occasionally in order to spot shoals of herring and thereby help the fishermen. But most important of all is the finding of new markets. Russia and Germany were the principal markets at one time, and I would like to know whether the Government have any idea as to new markets. We know—and I believe it is possible that it will continue for some time—that we shall be engaged in supplying herring, as a food, to distressed countries when the war is over. But as I have just said, I would like to know what the Government intend doing to try to obtain new markets.
§ Mr. Petherick (Penryn and Falmouth)
A number of Members who hail from North of the Tweed, even if they do not represent constituencies there, have spoken in this Debate but I should not like it to be thought that this day was to be devoted entirely to Highland games, so I would like to follow one or two hon. Members who sit for English constituencies in putting in a plea for English fishermen. One point was raised by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) and by the hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan) which I would like to answer. Both declared that there was a sinister Tory influence at work before the war which prevented us from building up a really good trade in the export of herring to Russia. I know hon. Members on my side as well as they do, and I do not know one Conservative now in 1215 the House who in any way in the years before the war tried to stop trade with Russia. We had very great difficulty with the Russians. They had a favourable trade balance, and that was always the difficulty of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture when he was Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade. Before the war Russia had, year after year, a favourable trade balance and if she wished she could have bought any amount of the herring which was ready for export from Scotland and England. Russia, from her point of view, was anxious to build up her own fishing industry, and, therefore, a succession of Governments, Conservative, Labour and Coalition, had the most intense difficulty in getting the Russians to buy not only herring but various other products of this country. What will happen after the war I do not know, but, as I have said, so far as I am aware, no evidence whatever has ever been produced by anybody to show that a succession of Governments in this country did not do their utmost to get Russia to buy, as she could have done, more British goods in exchange for the Russian goods which were sent here.
§ Mr. MacMillan
I did not intend to make any aspersions against the Minister of Agriculture individually. No doubt he did his best as an individual and as a Minister.
§ Mr. Petherick
We went on trading with Russia through the years from the Armistice, with one short exception, until the outbreak of this war. As I have said, Russia always had a favourable trade balance. There was no sinister influence trying to stop trade with her. Although we did not like the Communist system, a succession of British Governments tried to push British goods, including herring, into Russia.
I want to join with other hon. Members who have spoken to-day in welcoming this Bill. I hope it will go a long way in the difficult years after the war to improve the herring fishing industry, not only in its internal aspects but also in connection with the very important export trade. I do not believe that we can cure the troubles of any given trade by Act of Parliament. I think everything will depend in this instance on how the Herring 1216 Board will administer the very considerable powers and facilities that are being given to them by this Bill, a point to which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) adverted in his speech. If the Secretary of State for Scotland or the Minister of Agriculture are fathers of this Bill—if a Bill can have two fathers—then certainly my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Kelvingrove is its godfather. He and his Committee did very much in order that this Bill could be put on the Statute Book, as it shortly will be. Before I put in a plea for a further extension of this Measure, I would like to ask my right hon. Friend who is to reply to this Debate for a little further explanation on the question of loans. I am not quite clear—it may be that I am not very clever in finding out these things —as to the difference between loans under Clause 4 and loans under Clause 6. In Clause 4, as I understand it, out of the money provided by Parliament, £1,700,000 is to be put at the disposal of the Board for various purposes, and under Clause 6 the borrowing facilities of the Board are to be raised from £1,000,000 to £2,500,000. I am not clear as to the difference between these two forms of loans, and perhaps my right hon. Friend will be good enough to explain the matter.
During recent years there is no doubt that the herring industry has been through a bad time. The various Measures which the Government took in the few years before the war did something to mitigate the position, but the state of the industry was by no means rosy when the war broke out. In some parts of the country it was, and is still, in a bad way. In Cornwall, where I live, when I was a small boy I used to look out of a window—I lived by the sea—and see 40 or 50 lights on fishing boats when they were out in September and October after herring and pilchards. Before the war if you saw four or five that was a large number; often there were none at all in the fine weather. It is not only herring that affects us in Cornwall. There is also the question of pilchards. The methods of catching both sorts of fish are similar, and I think it is a pity that pilchards should have been left out of the Bill and out of the scope of the Herring Board.
I do not see why there should not be a Herring and Pilchard Board. It is true 1217 that the pilchard catch is very small in relation to the vast catch of herring but none the less it is extremely good fish. Unfortunately, it is caught in only one part of the country, the Duchy of Cornwall. It may be that as there are very few Members who represent that county in this House the pilchard fishery has been neglected and, of course, they are caught for only a short period of the year. But the mere fact that there is very little of that catch in relation to herring does not mean that no attention at all should be paid to it, and I would like the two Ministers responsible for this Bill to consider whether they cannot, even at this late hour, consider the possibility of accepting certain Amendments to give the Herring Board power to extend their operations not only to herring but to the pilchard industry.
I think very much could be done in the direction of canning more of our fish. Our canners have had great difficulties to contend with; they have had to build from nothing in face of fierce foreign competition and imports of all kinds of canned fish, which were allowed to arrive here in immense quantities in the years before the war, well presented and palatable to the housewife. Our canners had to fight against considerable odds in trying to make their way in the face of this corn-petition, as also did the catchers of the fresh fish which was sold in the ordinary way. A few years before the war a small cannery was set up in Cornwall. This factory had severe difficulties to undergo, and was constantly being undercut by an inferior food in the shape of the imported Californian pilchard, which had a comparatively easy time, because I understand that about three-quarters of that catch went into fish manure and the rest were virtually dumped, in tinned form, into this country and elsewhere. I hope that after the war the Government—and I hope there is general agreement about these matters—will not be too tender towards accepting into this country a vast import of foreign prepared and tinned foodstuffs, such as we had before the war. They are not nearly so good for the body as untinned foods, but if we are to eat tinned food I think we should concentrate on home tinned food and not on the imported products. I trust this Bill will do all that its protagonists hope it will do, 1218 and, as an English Member, I wish it every success.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I gather that my present speech is likely to be one of the shortest I have ever made in this House, but I have high hopes that before the end of the day I may be permitted to resume it after the break for Private Business. There is no need to waste words over a good Bill. In my opinion this is a very good Bill indeed for the herring fishing industry and the country as a whole. My only regret is that it was not introduced 15 years ago; it should have been, as has been pointed out. It shows the extraordinary deterioration that our public affairs underwent in the mid-war period when the herring fishing industry was allowed to drift on, in a state of desperate plight and depression, and nothing effective was done to bring assistance to it. Here we are in the fifth year of a world war and yet we find time to bring forward now the necessary measure to put the industry on a sound basis. It is one more illustration of the sort of paralysis in our public affairs during those mid-war years. As the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland pointed out, Clauses 1 and 2 give general effect to the recommendations of the Elliot Committee and I would like to pay my humble tribute to the work of that Committee which was, in all respects, admirable. I agree with my right hon. Friend——
§ It being the hour appointed for the consideration of Opposed Private Business, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means, under Standing Order No. 6, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.