§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ 6.15 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Thomas Williams)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
Judging by the size of some of the Bills presented to this House, and of many which I anticipate are going to be presented, this could be regarded as a comparatively modest Measure. Nevertheless, there is no doubt its importance to inshore fishermen cannot be overestimated. The services rendered throughout the war by fishermen, both by those who served in deep-sea trawlers and those who manned the smaller ships, are so outstanding—from the point of view of the actual catching or landing of fish—and by the large number of fishermen who willingly went into the Services, that I make no apology for asking Parliament to sanction this small Bill as a matter of urgency, and I hope that these modest proposals, important though they are modest, will be readily approved by this House. The Bill is confined exclusively to inshore fishermen, to those engaged in catching white fish or shell fish. White fish, of course, excludes those boats which are wholly, or mainly, used for herring fishing. This Measure is, with some verbal modifications, a replica of a similar Bill introduced by my predecessor in March of this year. That Bill was circulated, comments were received, and slight verbal improvements have been made. Although it is the same Bill, with a slightly different godparent, I hope it will commend itself to hon. Members sifting on both sides of the House.
In the summer of 1944, a similar Measure was introduced by the Secretary of State for Scotland, with the support and assistance of my right hon. Friend, to provide financial aid for the herring industry. This, therefore, is simply a complementary Measure to help inshore fishermen to re-equip themselves for their post-war task of inshore fishing. I need hardly remind hon. Members of the part played by the small boat in the Dunkirk evacuation. It was one more epic of the sea in which the little man played a very big part indeed. During this war, inshore fishermen have suffered very severe restrictions in their fishing grounds. They have also suffered restrictions in the times they 1422 could fish, yet those who were not actually called for naval or military service carried on in some form, even though many of them had to migrate from Yarmouth, Lowestoft, or from other fishing ports on the East coast, to Fleetwood, or elsewhere, to ply their trade. They were ready and willing to risk all enemy attacks, whether by air, surface raiders, submarines or mines, and their valuable contribution to the nation's food supplies in those very hard times can scarcely be over-estimated. Pre-war, there were something like 17,000 inshore fishermen. Most of them were not doing too well in the inter-war years. During the war, many of their boats had to be laid up, and they have now become, more or less, derelict, and certainly they need either overhaul or renewal if they are going to be used for fishing in the future.
This Measure, therefore, is inevitable if we would restore inshore fishermen to the position—I hope to a better position—they enjoyed prior to the war. It is perfectly obvious that we cannot leave the inshore fishermen, themselves, to meet the cost of new vessels, or of reconditioning old ones. They would not be able to face that obligation. Therefore, as it is of vital importance to an island nation of this kind always to have a body of seafaring men ready for any crisis that might occur, it is only right that the nation should step in, at the proper moment, to help them re-establish themselves in their former pursuits. This Measure is calculated to do that, and I hope to create a body of contented fishermen who, in time of peace, will help to supplement the food resources of this country, and, in time of danger, will, in the future, as always in the past, be ready and willing to serve us. These men, with their special knowledge of local conditions, are almost in valuable. Their seafaring qualities I need not eulogise at all.
Clause 1 of this Bill enables the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself to make grants for either the provision of new boats or the reconditioning of old, up to £500,000, and loans to the extent of £800,000 to persons at present engaged in inshore fishing, persons desirous of engaging therein, including those previously engaged, who during the war have been on some other service, and ex-Servicemen who wish to enter this industry. The financial assistance will be in the form of 1423 grants, or loans, towards the acquisition of boats or equipment, or, I imagine, of both, in case of need. The terms of the grant, or loan, will be subject to conditions laid down by the Treasury, but I can assure hon. Members that these conditions will be reasonable, fair, and, I hope, generous to a degree.
The intention of the Government, at the moment, is that the applicants will only be called upon, in the extreme case, to provide 10 per cent. of the total cost of reconditioning their old vessels, or for the provision of such equipment as they may require. Grants, therefore, can be up to 33ࡩ per cent. On top of the grants, power is vested in my right hon. Friend and myself to grant a loan to the extent of 56⅔ per cent., making 90 per cent. in all. If no grant is asked for, and a person only desires a loan, then such loan can exceed the 56⅔ per cent. I have mentioned. Just how far the loan can go beyond the 56⅔ per cent. I cannot say at this moment, but such a loan in excess of that percentage will be allowed where no grant is called for. The grants are to be made for a period of five years. That permits men who are in the Services, perhaps far away from their homes, to be demobilised and restored to their former domiciles, and still to have grants under the terms of this Bill. However, should there be any person, any member of the Services, in the Pacific Ocean, or in the far corners of the universe, who, for one reason or another, finds it impossible to apply within the stipulated five years, Clause 2 would enable the joint Departments to extend the period of this Measure for a further two years. It is strictly inline with the Herring Act of 1944, and carries with it almost identical provisions.
In Clause 3, inshore fishing is defined as the catching of white fish and shell fish, but not herring fishing. There is one condition in the interpretation Clause with regard to the length and weight of the boat, the maximum length being 70 feet and the maximum weight 50 tons. To go beyond that length or that weight would be trespassing, perhaps, upon the deep-sea trawler realm, and for that reason this limitation is embodied in the Bill. I hope, with that short and very brief introduction, the House will give a quick approval to the Measure. It is of 1424 the utmost importance to inshore fishermen, and especially those demobilised fishermen, who will find the facilities awaiting them if the House responds as I think it will. I repeat that this Measure is almost supplementary to the Herring Industry Bill of last year, and I hope the House will be ready, at least before the due hour when we are supposed to close our Business, to grant us the Second Reading of it.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Mr. R. S. Hudson (Southport)
Speaking for hon. Members on this side of the House, I would like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on having persuaded his colleagues to produce this Bill in substantially the same form as that which I originally introduced in May of this year with the backing of my right hon. Friend, and that of the late Secretary of State for Scotland. Unfortunately, it fell by the wayside, but I am very glad that it has been reintroduced, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that we, on this side, will do all in our power to get it on to the Statute Book as quickly as possible. I hope he will be able to urge through the usual channels—I do not know whether it is going upstairs—that the remaining stages should be taken as quickly as possible because, as he says, the Bill is going to be of very considerable assistance indeed to inshore fishermen, and more especially to those who, but for its assistance, would almost certainly not be able to start fishing again owing to the damage done to their boats and gear during the war, either through enemy action or through having been laid up.
I am also glad that my right hon. Friend was able to give us a little more information about the terms of the grant and loan than are included in the text of the Bill. Some of my hon. Friends behind me who represent fishing constituencies will have certain questions to put to my right hon. Friend, and I hope that he will be able to give them satisfactory answers. We realise, of course, that, not for the first time in his experience or mine, he is up against the Treasury, but I hope, in view of the importance of getting fish for the country, that he, and his right hon. Friend the Minister of Food, will be able to exercise the necessary pressure to get reasonably generous grants and loans made for this 1425 purpose. I know there is another Bill to be discussed and, therefore, I will not do more than congratulate my right hon. Friend on introducing this Bill and hope for its speedy passage into law.
§ 6.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)
This is the first time that I have had the temerity to address this House. May I, in those circumstances, ask the indulgence of hon. Members? I would like to extend a very warm welcome to this Bill, not only on account of its intrinsic merits, but because it implements in some measure the promise made by the Government in the Gracious Speech, to take all necessary steps to promote a healthy fishing industry. During the last 30 years, the fishing industry has declined as much as any industry, and more than most, owing, not so much to the difficulties of the last war, but to something fundamentally and inherently wrong in its constitution. We have heard a great deal in the Debates during the last week of rehabilitation in regard to individuals and communities, and to the work of U.N.R.R.A. I suggest that we have now a class of work to do in regard to the rehabilitation of an industry. As I was considering what I should say here, it struck me that the letters of U.N.R.R.A. gave us a lead in the urgent need for the reorganisation, rehabilitation and assistance of the fishing industry.
It cannot be denied that the decline in the number of ships and the total catch and, worst of all, the number of men recruited to this industry must give us cause for very grave concern. It is a tragic commentary on the economic foundation of the three basic industries of this country—coalmining, agriculture and fishing—that they are failing to recruit sufficient men to offset natural wastage, particularly young and vigorous men who could look forward to a long career in these industries. One reason is not that the work of the fisherman is arduous or dangerous. That has never deterred him. We all know the marvellous work which those men did in mine-infested areas, and at Dunkirk. Disinclination to go into the fishing industry is to be found in their distrust of the economic set-up of that industry. Unfortunately, circumstances may arise in that industry whereby men who have worked hard, with considerable skill, on 1426 a dangerous voyage have not been successful at the end of it. We have seen the shocking sights of successful fishermen coming into harbour and throwing their catches overboard. That has aroused in those men a feeling of distrust of the whole industry.
This Bill does something to remove such distrust. Further, it seems that the fisherman is denied promotion. Members opposite are always inclined to favour free enterprise, but the average fisherman has no free enterprise at all and is never likely to have it unless we help him. This Bill is designed to give him that sense of proprietorship and enterprise and enable him to carve out his own destiny in a better way than he has ever been able to do before. Above all, the fisherman requires a fair reward, and I make no apology for stressing the needs of the actual working fishermen when the needs of the industry as a whole are being considered. This Bill is the forerunner of many which must come before us if we are to help the industry to rehabilitate itself. There are also questions of marketing, distribution, landings and repairs and I hope my right hon. Friend will consider not only giving facilities to fishermen to buy their vessels and gear, but will also provide facilities for landings and repairing their craft and working gear.
I have been impressed, during the Debates I have attended here, with the zeal with which Members have specially pleaded for their own constituencies. I would like to be allowed to make a special plea on behalf of my own constituency Lowestoft, and adjoining places on the East and South-East coasts. No part of the country has suffered more from the effects of the war. The primary industries of Lowestoft—holiday catering and fishing—were cut off at one stroke on the outbreak of war, and I ask that the men who have had the beaches barred to them should be given some special encouragement to make up for the tremendous sacrifices that their part of the country have made. I hope that this Bill will be the forerunner of a long series of Bills which will make the fishing industry what it ought to be—one of the prime food-producing industries of our country.
§ 6.35 p.m.
§ Commander Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I realise the great honour I have 1427 to-night in addressing this House for the first time. I do not know what other Members have felt on such occasions, but so far as I am concerned it is rather like taking-off for the first time in a flying machine. But there is one great difference. On the first day that I was airborne I did everything in my power to show my friends—whether they were honourable or not I do not know—that it was an everyday occurrence. To-day, I wear my flag and crave the indulgence of the House. If, Mr. Speaker, I should stray from the narrow path of the Bill it may well be through inexperience, or the deep love which I have for this subject. I can, however, assure you that I will not speak for long, and I therefore trust that Mr. Speaker will have patience with me.
Do hon. Members realise what has happened to the inshore fishing industry? Do they realise that, in 1914, 2,000 fishermen in Cornwall, all naval reservists, joined the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war? Do they realise that in 1939 only 200 such men were available? These figures are appalling and speak for themselves. One of the important aspects with regard to the fishing industry is that it forms a pool, of reserve, for the Royal Navy. From this the men are drawn to man the little ships. I will not go into the subject of little ships; we all know what they performed during the war. But I am convinced that if the Government do not support this industry to the full it will cease to be an industry. One of the reasons why I am speaking on this matter to-night is that it is concerned with sea power, food and employment. These are three facts which we must always remember. It seems strange that when Europe and a great portion of the world is starving, fishermen anywhere should have anxiety as to whether or not their catch will be utilised. Yet this is the case. In my own division, in those lovely and romantic ports of Looe and Polperro, fishermen are anxious whether or not their pilchards will be required.
So far, I have been completely destructive; now I come to the constructive part of my speech. I ask the Government to see that in the years of peace which we hope lie before us there are sufficient fishery protection vessels, not only to stop poaching, but to form that intimacy which is so necessary between the Royal Navy and the fishermen of our Kingdom. I also 1428 ask the Government to study not only the question of refrigerated trucks for the transport of fish, but any chemical process whereby fish can be kept fresh. It is absurd that fishermen should suddenly be told that they must fish from Monday to Wednesday, but not from Thursday to Saturday. The weather enters into fishing. I do not know whether the Government are considering introducing a Bill for the nationalisation of the weather; if they do I trust they will take it on the Floor of the House, because I can assure them that it would be highly controversial. Also, are the Government considering setting up a White Fish Commission? Again I would like to know with reference to White Paper Cmd. 6680 whether the Government are going to treat the fishing industry as a Cinderella or not, because there is no mention in that Paper of a principal assistant secretary. Are they going to raise the status of the industry by raising that post to an Under-Secretaryship, or are they going to let this chance slip and allow the post to become that of an assistant secretaryship?
I would like to pass for a moment to the fishing fleets of Germany and' Japan. I consider that these countries have lost the right to sea-power, and although I would not deny these troublesome people fish I trust that the Government will see that their fish is caught in United Nations' bottoms, built in United Nations' yards. Let the House remember that a yard that is capable of building a fishing vessel, is capable of building a man of war.
This Bill has my full approval; I support it in every way, and I would do nothing to hinder its passage. But I do ask the Government to consider altering the 70 feet to 75 feet, which would enable the 75 foot M.V.Fs to be included. These boats may well be extremely useful to the fishing industry, and I do feel that the extra 5 feet will not interfere with the spirit of the Bill as expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Minister. In conclusion, I appeal to Members on all sides of the House, when considering the fishing industry, to remember that an enlarged inshore fishing industry is part of the national security of this land of ours.
§ 6.44 p.m.
§ Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)
It is with great joy that I find myself, for the first time in my Parliamentary life, called upon 1429 to congratulate two maiden speakers who have spoken on a subject which is so dear to my heart. I think the whole House greatly admired the modest confidence with which the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) addressed us just now. I am sure that, in him, Lowestoft has found one who will, consistently and persuasively, put before this House those matters which concern them so very dearly. We all hope that we shall often hear his voice in this Chamber. It was, of course, a very special pleasure to me to hear my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bodmin (Commander Marshall), who represents a division in Cornwall nearer to England than mine. I had already heard of the great impression he had made in Cornwall by his care and anxiety for the good of the fishermen he represents, and I am sure we were all pleased by his thoughtful and interesting address. I am sure that in him the fishermen of Cornwall have found a much needed champion of great power and sincerity, and I look forward to hearing him many times in this House. I am grateful to have found so powerful and eloquent a colleague.
One of the delightful things about Debates on the fishing industry is that it is a subject in which all parties can join because it is a broad human issue. I am sure we are all delighted that the right hon. Gentleman has been able to bring in this Measure so soon. My right hon. Friend the Member for Southport (Mr. R. S. Hudson) welcomed the Bill, and he was entitled to rejoice over it like a father seeing his offspring doing well in the world. We are very glad indeed to see this Bill because in the broad sweep of proposals concerning reconstruction there might be some danger that the humble, seafaring, people living in the scattered districts, might be forgotten. I am very glad that they have not been forgotten in this respect, because these people are of the essence of our national life; they affect its character, its safety and its feeding and we rejoice that this start has been made. These people are often too much forgotten between the wars. During the war, they went out on the minesweepers, and we all know that it was the inshore fishermen, who formed a sort of sea Home Guard, who were the eyes of the lookout around our shores, and they had extra hazards beyond those 1430 encountered by the ordinary Home Guard.
I remember asking a very brave and distinguished fisherman who had taken part in these patrols, with what they were armed. He said: "Two Verey lights, and four cutlasses." That is very romantic, but romance is not enough, and I can assure the House that romance will have gone altogether unless we follow up this Bill to see that these men's livelihood is preserved. This is a modest Bill, and I am sure that the House will feel that these two sums, £500,000 for loans and £800,000 for grants, are very well spent on these people. I gather from the Bill that it is a five years' period, but that two years can be added should the need arise. I gather also that the sums are limited to £500,000 and £800,000, and I should be sorry to see the butter scraped too thin, if we find, as we shall find, that occasion arises to extend the time. There are great possibilities here. I have heard it said in the past that inshore fishing was dying out. That is not so; these people are anxious to go out in their little boats a hundred miles or more. I wish sometimes we could find a better term for this type of fishing than that of inshore fishing. People often think that these men are longshoremen, waiting to take people for little excursions in their boats. That is not so at all. These little boats go out many miles, and their great virtue is that they come back sooner than the deep-sea fishermen and therefore give us a different type of fresh fish.
There are one or two points which require to be clarified. It has been said in this Bill that there may be a grant up to one-third in case of need. I would like to know who decides when there is a case of need, and to feel sure that the Minister is going to take advice from those who will understand when a case of need arises. It is only people who know these little ports—and they differ one from- another even in the same locality—who can really advise about a case of need. I beg the Minister to satisfy himself that these cases of need are not too rigidly interpreted. I hope that he will not let it be said that there is no need because some fisherman has a few hundred pounds or even a few thousand pounds behind him. There may be a bad season, and a few hundred pounds savings may be badly needed by the fisherman and his 1431 family. I do hope that there will be flexibility in this matter. I heard of one member of a family who wanted to take over a third share in a boat. I gathered that the price was £500–£300 for the actual boat and £200 for the gear, and, of course, in that there would also be good will. So we see that there are quite large sums involved in this, and I would like to know that that type of case is covered by this Bill. Costs have risen considerably—for instance, engines. I hope the Minister will bear this point in mind because I want to be quite sure that engines are covered by the word "gear" or by the word "boat," because boats without engines are not going to be much use. There are other costs which have pretty well doubled, such as ropes, oil and nets.
What are to be the terms of these loans—the rates of interest and the period over which repayment has to be made? Here again, I hope there will be flexibility, and that repayment will be possible in a larger measure when the fisherman is doing well, when he has had a good season with plenty offish about and prices are stable. When he has had a bad season he will not be so able to pay back, and it is very important to see in cases where there are loans that they do not cast a millstone around the neck of these people and that the system of repayment is adjusted accordingly. If these loans have to be repaid there must be a suitable price for the fish which these inshore fishermen catch, in order to enable them to repay these loans. Let us see the end of those cases where the fisherman gets a minimum price and the housewife in London pays the maximum price.
For the inshore fishermen, the price is fixed on a different kind of catch from that which applies to the deep sea trawlers. One example: The inshore fishermen in Cornwall include a substantial quantity of ray and skate in their winter catch. Last year the price was based on the lesser proportion of ray and skate caught by people owning large trawlers. We are going to have these boats, and I rejoice. We must see that the men are there to work them, and I was very disappointed that the inshore fishermen did not come under Class B releases. We feel very strongly that the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries did 1432 not sufficiently press forward in these matters. This is one of the occasions when we feel that we ought to have a Ministry of Fisheries, and Agriculture a Ministry of its own.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
Is the hon. Gentleman referring to National Health Insurance?
§ Mr. Beechman
No. I am referring to demobilisation. I dealt with the insurance matters in a Question a few days ago. The men who are to man these boats are enthusiastic and keen, and I think with the help of the local education authorities new recruits could be taught the elements of navigation and of the use and repair of nets and so forth. This is a time of change. The ways of the sea will not change, and the characters of the men who get their livelihood from the sea will not change. There is one thing I would like to see changed and that is our scale of social values. The men who contribute to our national life in the face of these special dangers should occupy a high position in our scale of social values. I congratulate the Government on their start, but we must follow through and make sure that the opportunity to preserve the inshore fishermen is fully seized now.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
It may not be inappropriate for one who is addressing this House for the first time to express the hope that he may not be at sea, and I sincerely hope that I shall not fall into deep water. If I do, I hope that some charitable fisherman, inshore or otherwise, will help me out. I wish to say a word about this Bill by way of welcome. It seems to me a very beneficent Bill. It is designed to help a class of the community, not a large one, a class which the Minister put before the war at about 17,000 souls. It is designed to help every type of inshore fisherman, from the boy with the lobster pots to the inshore fisherman who is prepared to do all-the-year-round fishing. The inshore fisherman seems to me to be a small industrialist with great potentialities. He makes short voyages, but many of them; his catches are small but they are numerous, and they are fresh when he brings them in. He is a humble man with a small boat which has no sleeping accommodation, and which is operated by from two to four 1433 men and a boy. His voyages are short ones of from anything up to 20 miles out to sea He contrasts with the larger trawler—hardly a competitor—who does things in a larger way and who has more money behind him.
I wish to ask the House to regard the inshore fisherman from three aspects. First of all, as a citizen; secondly, for his services in the war; and thirdly, for his contribution to the food supply of the nation. The inshore fishermen are those good citizens who live all round our coasts in countless villages and small towns, forming fishing communities, hard-working and courageous men who live lives of great exposure to the elements and danger, who bring up strong families and who are an asset to the nation. On that ground alone they are entitled to the favourable consideration of this House. But their claim does not rest there. Their service in the war has been splendid. They have worked hard in the Merchant Navy, where their courage, strength and experience have been invaluable. They have worked in mine sweepers, armed trawlers and little ships which were of such enormous service in the war. They have formed the backbone of the lifeboat crews all round our coasts. Their skill in handling ships, their courage in heavy seas and gales, were particularly useful. Indeed, for any seafaring job which required to be done the inshore fishermen were available. On that second ground also I suggest that they are entitled to the favourable consideration of the House.
Then there is the third ground. They make a contribution to the food supply of the nation which is of peculiar value, because they bring to our shores daily a supply of fish which is, in the main, fresher than the fish which is brought by the trawlers. They meet a real need of the nation, but alas, many of them, during the war, were forced to neglect their avocation, their boats and their equipment fell into disrepair. This Bill seems to me to be a very apt attempt to meet the need which was thereby created, and to enable them to reconstitute their little industry, to re-equip their boats, and, where necessary, to buy new boats and new equipment. The only doubt I have about the Bill is whether it goes far enough. The Minister has told us, and the Bill assures us, that it is designed to help the inshore fishermen in 1434 three ways, first, by grants not exceeding in the aggregate £500,000 a year; secondly, by loans not exceeding in the aggregate £800,000 a year; and, thirdly, by a combination of the two—loans and grants. Are those two sums sufficient? Judging by the history of former efforts along these lines, I think that, after all, the financial provisions are sufficient. Therefore, I hope that the House will support this Bill in the form in which it has been presented to the House. May I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for calling me, and hon. Members for the attention which has been given to this, my first effort to address this House?
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Duthie (Banff)
I rise to address this House for the first time, and I ask hon. Members to accord me the privileges usual on an occasion of this kind. I am emboldened to speak on this Bill, because it seeks to aid an industry in which I was born and brought up. My father and a long line of forbears, both paternal and maternal, lived their lives as inshore fishermen, and won their frugal livelihoods on the sea. Moreover, more than half the population of the constituency which I have the honour to represent in this House, are directly dependent upon the inshore fishing industry. I am sure that the tribute which was paid by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Second Reading of this Bill will find great acceptance amongst the inshore fishermen of this country. I welcome this Bill because it seeks to aid the inshore fishermen.
On the Moray Firth coast, the inshore fisherman may be a white fisherman only, or a combination of white fisherman and herring fisherman. The line of demarcation between the herring fisherman and the white fisherman is not definitely drawn. The seine net man—that is the method of white fishing on the Moray Firth coast—usually functions as a white fisherman between the herring seasons. During the Recess I took the opportunity of obtaining first-hand information about this Bill in my constituency. I also made a voyage to the fishing grounds, in a vessel similar to those which this Bill aims to provide. In my own lifetime I have seen the white fishing develop on the Scottish coasts from baited lines to the seine net. The seine net is the method of white fishing almost universally 1435 used in the North of Scotland. The type of vessel suitable for the seine net, is the type of vessel which these inshore fishermen of Scotland hope to acquire through the help of this Bill.
The time at my disposal does not permit me to give a very extensive survey of the industry but there are one or two points which I should like to bring to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman with all the seriousness of which I am capable. The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) mentioned the question of loans. I, too, would like to lay some emphasis on that point. The present day cost of a vessel suitable for inshore fishing, that is to say, a vessel suitable for seine net fishing, has little or no relationship to the pre-war cost.
Here is a case in point. A vessel equipped for seine net fishing, which could be found ready for sea, entirely new and complete with all gear, could be furnished for less than £2,000. The hull of such a vessel in the pre-war era would have cost something in the nature of £600 in the builder's yard. To-day the cost of the hull alone may be as much as £6,000. In some cases shipyard costs have multiplied themselves ten times. There are increases in the cost of machinery—these boats must he equipped with machinery, and the Diesel engine is the sine qua non of modern inshore fishermen—and the rope coiler has also increased in price sometimes by 10 to 15 per cent. Whereas in the pre-war era the cost of the vessel was something in the nature of £2,000, to-day the cost is nearer £8,000. If, for the sake of argument, a fisherman secures a loan of £3,000, it is well within the range of possibility that in a short time after the war the price of that vessel may be such that the outstanding part of the loan may be greater than the value of the entire vessel. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to give thought to some method, whereby, in the event of values reducing to the extent which I have suggested, the indebtedness of a fisherman, which, through no fault of his own, is still outstanding may be written down somewhat and the spectre of potential bankruptcy removed from him.
This is not a new suggestion. During the last war the Government built a number of steam fishing vessels which were used on Government service, but the 1436 intention was that at the end of hostilities these vessels would be handed over to fishermen as they were designed as fishing boats. They were handed over at the then current value at the termination of hostilities. Within two years, the price of those vessels had to be cut in two, and a substantial rebate paid to the fishermen because, on account of a succession of bad fishing seasons, the current value of those vessels had come down by half. I know the danger which besets this otherwise splendid hope for the fishermen, and I need only instance that potential danger to the right hon. Gentleman to know that the matter will have his earnest scrutiny.
The other point that I would like to emphasise is this. In selecting those who are to be the recipients of this assistance from the Government, I would strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider setting up local advisory committees on which fishermen shall be represented, so that suitable and well warranted types shall be recommended for receiving assistance. Anyone who knows the inshore fishing industry, must appreciate that it is essential that a boat shall be skippered by a really first-class skipper. Not every fisherman is a potentially good skipper, and it is vital for the success of a venture that a vessel shall have a good skipper. That point can be most adequately covered by the setting up of local committees on which fishermen with their local knowledge are represented.
On the question of the design of the vessel, I trust there is not in the right hon. Gentleman's mind, a hankering after a standardisation of types. Each fishing port in this country has its own idiosyncrasies concerning its fishing vessels. There are the questions of draught, beam, and height of forefoot, all of which have to do with the particular harbours which they have to use and the particular fishing grounds on which they seek their livelihood. I strongly urge the right hon. Gentleman to leave the selection of the design of the vessels to be acquired by Government help to the fishermen, because they know the type of vessel which will meet each situation.
No inshore fisherman, however well equipped, can succeed in his ventures, unless he has a satisfactory fishing ground. I was rather perturbed by the somewhat uncompromising nature of the answer that was given by the right hon. 1437 Gentleman the Minister of State yesterday, to a question in connection with territorial fishing grounds. That is a point on which we in the North of Scotland feel particularly keenly, especially as it affects the Moray Firth. I do not wish to say anything at present with regard to that fishing ground which may embarrass the right hon. Gentleman opposite, but I would sincerely and earnestly entreat the Government to give the greatest possible sympathetic thought to the question of trawling in the Moray Firth. We have there a vast field of endeavour for inshore fishermen. We have a fishing ground which can contain a very large inshore fishing population, but if that fishing ground has to suffer the continued and incessant depredations of the trawler, the hope of success for a large inshore fishing community there is very largely dissipated. There is in force in some sections of the Moray Firth area a practice which I would commend to the serious consideration of the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture and his colleague the Secretary of State for Scotland. That is the practice which has been put into effect by the fishermen—it is entirely their own idea—of not fishing on Saturdays, as well as Sundays. It is, of course, well known that Scottish fishermen do not fish on Sundays. They have also ceased fishing on Saturdays, and that has provided a suitable opportunity to have the boats and gear completely overhauled before the next week's work.
I welcome this Bill. It is a great gesture towards a very deserving community. It brings a fresh and lively hope to many who are in doubt about the future. I sincerely hope it will be a means of retaining the young people in the inshore fishing industry. This Bill could not have come at a more timely moment than when they are coming out of the Services. In conclusion I say that if there is anything that the country, and this House in particular, can do to help this most deserving section of the community it will not only be a most timely aid to very deserving people but an investment which will repay itself a hundredfold.
§ 7.20 p.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and Haddington)
It is with a double pleasure that I find myself with the opportunity of making a few comments on this Bill. My 1438 first pleasure is derived from the fact that in my early boyhood days I had the good fortune to spend my life in a fishing community, and I actually started life as a fisherman. My second pleasure is to pay a tribute to the two hon. Members who have just made their maiden speeches. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) showed by his speech that he had a wide knowledge of this subject which can only be secured by a close association with fishermen. We hope we shall have the opportunity of hearing him on many occasions when we have to discuss matters referring to this great industry. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) also made a great contribution to the Debate in his well-considered, well-documented and valuable speech. I congratulate both these Members, although, indeed, I myself am new, for the excellent speeches which they made on this important industry.
I would like to say how much I am at one with the speakers who have preceded me in congratulating the Minister on bringing this Bill forward at this very opportune time. It is an earnest of the intentions of the Government not to neglect the fishing industry as it was so sadly neglected after the last war. There are, however, certain limitations to one's congratulations, because some of us feel that the Bill hardly goes far enough to deal with the root problems facing fishermen to-day. The financial concessions which are made are of considerable importance, but there are other problems facing the fishermen which are not referred to in the Bill. There is, for example, the sadly neglected condition of many of the fishing harbours from which the boats have to operate. I would have welcomed it if we had had in the Bill some provision for dealing with these harbours and making them so suitable that they could accommodate the boats which we hope this Bill will be able to provide for the men who are coming back from the war.
I would like to suggest that as the Government provide protection in the way of fishery cruisers for the territorial waters, they should consider providing suitable dredging machinery or dredgers which could patrol the fishing harbours in order to keep them in proper condition for the boats that fish from them. Many of these small harbours and ports are unable 1439 financially to meet the great demand for better equipped harbours because of their decreased revenue during the years between the two wars. They have not been able to build up funds sufficient to keep the harbours in proper condition. I feel that in other respects, the Bill is eminently suitable. The hon. and gallant Member for Bodmin (Commander Marshall), whom I congratulate on a vigorous maiden speech, referred to the national need of keeping our inshore fishing industry going. That industry has provided a great reservoir of trained seamen which has assisted us greatly and been a valuable asset to the nation in time of war. The hon. and gallant Gentleman stated that 2,000 men in Cornwall were members of the Royal Naval Reserve and went to the Royal Navy in the last war, but that there were only about 200 of such men at the outbreak of this war. That example could be multiplied all over the country.
The industry must not be allowed to go back to where it was after the last war. The North-East coast of Scotland was almost built on the fishing industry. Large numbers of communities, self-supporting and enterprising, carried on by industrious and happy people before the last war, were left completely to their own resources after the war of 1914–18, with the loss of overseas markets and with a chaotic distributing system in the home market. This Labour Government, therefore, must see that the fishermen and all those who depend on them—because there are ancillary industries on shore which depend on the harvest of the sea—must not be left in the position in which they found themselves after the last war. We hope that this Bill is only the first of a succession of Measures which will bring greater certainty and prosperity to the industry. What the fishermen want more than anything is a declaration of a long-term policy and to see that the Government are not going to leave them as they were left after the last war. If the Government can bring those Measures in they will have the full support of all sections of the House.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Thorp (Berwick-upon-Tweed)
I crave the indulgence of the House. I had not meant to make my maiden voyage so early, but for two 1440 reasons I decided that I would try to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, to-day. The first is that the subject is of great interest to me and to many in my constituency. The second is that I whole-heartedly support this Bill and, therefore, do not see the danger of failing to obey the rules in regard to getting on to controversial subjects. While welcoming the Bill, I feel like the hon. Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. J. J. Robertson) that it does not go quite far enough. He mentioned that there were certain ports and small harbours that were in a bad condition. I agree with him, but I believe I am correct in saying that under the Sea Fish Industry Act, 1938, Section 56 (1, b), the local fisheries committee have power tocontribute to the payment of the cost of executing works for the maintenance or improvement of any small harbour situate wholly or in part within the district of the committee.I think it will help the small ports and harbours if the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries can see his way to sanctioning the many demands which may be made in accordance with the Act.
I would like to speak for a few moments on behalf of those fishermen who at the moment have to keep their boats on open beaches. They are at the mercy of all storms, and I could read to the House many letters which I received from fishermen just after the storms at the end of September. One letter described it rather pathetically, and told how one fisherman lost his boat, but the others were saved because they dragged their anchors and were washed on to the beach. I agree the boats were saved, but anybody who knows any thing about boats will agree with me that they could not have been much better, for what they had been through. The fishermen who use the open beaches in my part of the world have a local boat called a coble, and I understand that it is a very seaworthy boat. I have been out in it, and if any other hon. Members have been out in it they will agree, I am sure, that 60 per cent. of its seaworthiness is the result of the courage and skill of the fishermen.
If we want to attract new blood to the inshore fishing industry, we must have bigger and safer boats. If we are to have those, we must have some sort of harbour or breakwater where they can lie at 1441 anchor. Small boats can, with a great deal of work, be pulled up on shore, but with anything bigger this would be impossible, and I would like to urge the Minister to consider inserting a Clause in this Bill that will provide money for the building of harbours. We do not ask for big harbours. We just ask for a mole or breakwater which will enable our boats to lie safely at anchor.
My last point concerns the financial side of the Bill. I would like to hear, as soon as may be convenient, the periods for which the loans will be made and what the rate of interest will be, because the sooner we have that information the sooner we shall be able to encourage people to come into the fishing industry. May I conclude, therefore, by asking the right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries if he will consider the points I have put forward.
§ 7.34 p.m.
§ Major John White (Canterbury)
This is my maiden speech and so I crave the indulgence of the House. In the constituency which I have the honour to represent, there are large numbers of farm workers, a comparatively small number of fishermen, and a smaller number of builders of fishing boats. If the countrymen were asked to provide a measuring-stick for this Bill they would say that it is "food for the people," and I think the fishermen and boat builders of Whit-stable would call it "hope for the future." In 1939,before I was called to less constructive activities, I urged the cause of the inshore fishermen both as a student of: economics and as a student of sea history. They are all the more important to-day, but there is a point which has not been mentioned. As a result of the ending of Lend-Lease, we shall have to say good-bye to the imports of canned fish we got from North America. That makes home production all the more important. Before the war, as I went round these small ports, I could see the heart going out of the industry, which was more and more composed of older men, older boats, and older gear. Fewer boats were fishing, fewer fish were coming in, and the cause of it all was faulty distribution, the lack of a guaranteed market and of a good steady price. Unless we realise that that was the fundamental cause of the depression, we shall be wasting the money this Bill proposes to spend. 1442 The young men would go down to the quays and look at their father's fish rotting in the boxes and say, "No, thank you, very much," and go away to earn their living in the city.
I feel that we can learn something from the Norwegians and the Danes. In Norway the fishing industry is one of the greatest industries, if not the greatest, in the country. Its prosperity has been built up on a craft about 70 feet long with a wooden hull and a semi-Diesel engine. In Norway, and in Denmark, they also use a 40–foot boat with a Diesel engine. They have discovered that in inshore fishing speed is the essence of success. It enables the boat to get to the grounds quickly, and get back to market quickly with its catch, and I suggest that we should bear that point in mind. I would also suggest that we should look at some of the craft that have been built for naval purposes during the war and which will now become supernumerary to Admiralty requirements. There is a craft which is built at Whitstable and many other places about 60 feet long, with a good-sized hull, that was used in the Far East to land supplies on open beaches. They are good craft, and many of them went out the whole way to the Far East under their own power. There are also small craft about 40 feet long used as Fleet tenders at home. They have wooden hulls and are well built by men who have been building fishing boats for generations. I submit that we might consider whether these two types of craft might not be converted for inshore fishing purposes.
But with new boats and new men we must have new ideas, and I would submit that this Bill might provide for the equipment of a school of inshore fishing where young men and boys could go to learn the fundamentals of the trade. We have had an example set us on that subject. When the storms of war blew the Belgian fishing boats away from their own ports they found haven in the ports of the West. They recently went home, pretty prosperous from the fish they had caught on inshore fishing grounds that many of our own fishermen had given up as unprofitable. While they were with us they established a school of inshore fishing at Brixham.
This Bill provides money for new gear, and I think we should realise that many of the inshore fishing grounds, especially 1443 in Eastern and South-Eastern England, are in a very bad condition. They are rich in fish because they have had six years' rest, but they are dirty, like a garden that has not had the hoe on it for some time. We were out fishing the other day off Mersea and our day's catch was about 20 skate, about the same number of sole, the casing of a V.1, a large and undefinable piece of aeroplane, and about a ton of mud and weed. I mention that because I think we must realise that during the coming months the damage to gear will be quite considerable, at any rate on the Southern and Eastern coasts.
I have said that maldistribution was the cause of the pre-war decline. How are we to deal with that maldistribution? The question is how to get the fish from the small ports to the places where it is needed most; that is, the country villages and the mining villages, to which the fish does not get now. A surprisingly large part of rural Britain lies within 25 miles of the coast. Surely, the answer is the establishment of mobile fish shops, that is to say, converted Army lorries, each lorry visiting seven, ten or 12 villages a day, so that the village women would know when the lorry was coming and would not have to trudge, as they do now, to the towns and wait in queues. I suggest also that there should be mobile fried fish shops. Those are not new ideas. Hon. Members from North of the Tweed know the fleshers cart very well. Mobile fried fish shops were tried out before the war and proved a success.
If these things are to be done, and if there is to be a system of distribution covering the smaller ports, there will have to be refrigerator equipment at the ports. Refrigerator equipment is expensive. I submit that suitable equipment already exists. I refer to that manufactured for the use of our armies in Burma and in other parts of the Far East. That equipment includes refrigerator barges, each of which has a capacity of about 9,000 cubic feet. Could not one, two, or if necessary three, of those barges be moored alongside the quay so that the fishing boats could unload into them, and the mobile fish shops and fried-fish shops could take fish from them as they wanted it. There were also used in Burma 50-ton sectional storage units, which were very easy to put up and dismantle. These units might be used for seasonal catches. There was also used 1444 in the Far East a 170 cubic feet insulated container mounted on three-ton lorries. I do not see why they could not be mounted on three-ton lorries in Britain. The Bill refers to equipment for the use of the industry. Could not refrigerator equipment at the ports be brought within the scope of the Bill?
I have said that this Bill can mean food for the people and hope for the future. I think it is generally agreed that our present rations are not sufficient for the heavy manual worker unless he has access to adequate canteen facilities. There are no canteens or cafeteria in the country side. I want to see fish on the plate of the farm worker, not once a fortnight when his wife has gone her weary way to the town and come back with a piece of flabby something wrapped up in wet newspaper. I want to see fish on the farmworker's plate two or three times a week, and fresh fish at that. I believe the Minister of Fuel and Power wants to see the same thing in the mining villages. I believe it is possible to achieve that within the terms of this Bill. Fish should be a vital factor in keeping up the productive capacity of the farmworker and the miner.
Finally, the future welfare and prosperity of our inshore fishermen is of vital national importance. If we look back through the pages of our sea history we see them glorious with the names of great sea captains—Drake, Raleigh, Hawkins, Blake, Nelson. Let us not forget that the hard core of their crews, the oaken heart, was the inshore fishermen. There are families at our inshore ports that have been there for centuries: Tregaskis in the West, the Brinkleys of East Anglia, the Bevis's of the Solent ports. Centuries ago William de Bevis saved Southampton from the Danish rovers. More than one Bevis is sailing under the White Ensign to-day. The inshore fisherman is an essential and integral part of our national life. In this Bill I believe we have the instrument that will create reality from the vision that is in the minds of some of us—a prosperous, healthy, inshore fishing industry, with new hope in the ports and villages round our coasts and more food for the people of the country side.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)
My speech is not a maiden speech; it has been made on so many occasions 1445 that it begins to sound like an old maiden speech that has been on the shelf for a long time. I am, however, glad that it falls to me to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Canterbury (Major J. White) and the hon. and gallant Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Lieut.-Colonel Thorp) on the contributions they have made. The merits of their speeches to-night will ensure a welcome for their future contributions to our Debates. Both were constructive, helpful and sympathetic. Indeed, all the speeches on the Bill, so far, have shown genuine sympathy with the needs of the inshore fishermen, a sympathy which has been noticeably absent on many occasions in the past. Certainly, as far as practical measures to improve the lot of the inshore fishermen were concerned, that sympathy has been absent in the past. I am not going to pretend that the Bill satisfies me. I have been too long in opposition to be able to switch over suddenly to complete support. As a stop-gap the Bill has certain virtues, but it does not go far enough, and it could not go far enough, for the problem has not yet been studied to an extent which would make it possible to reach conclusions giving a practical and practicable solution to the difficulties of the white fish industry.
Hon. Members opposite have very good reason to be sympathetic to the Government in this matter. Their own Governments, during their many years of power, failed completely as far as the inshore fishing industry was concerned. The fact that we are now faced with the problem in its present gravity is evidence and proof of that. Inshore fishing and white fishing generally is the more important to us in Scotland at the present time, because we are not sure what is going to happen even to the herring industry. We have not yet a policy on that. This is much less a criticism of Governments than it is a criticism of those who took a leading part in wrecking our markets in Russia for political reasons. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has just registered an expression which mingles guilt with disapproval. Honestly, he cannot get rid of his responsibility, but it affects him much less than the people for whom we are speaking to-day. We are going to be extremely dependent, in the fishing industry, upon the development of the white fish side of it. I notice that in the Ministry of Food they are very pessimistic 1446 about recovering the old markets in Russia and the Baltic for cured herrings. I am not going too far into the subject of herrings because I would be ruled out of Order, but I would stress that the white fishing industry now assumes an even greater importance from the point of view of feeding our people at home and the home market and of developing the export trade in white fish.
On the outbreak of the first world war the fishermen of the Western Isles had to leave their boats and go to war. When they came back, their boats were derelict and useless. They received a certain amount of compensation, but they had not the capital available with which to equip their boats. To that extent, the situation is anticipated this time, and this Bill will go some way towards helping these men. As the hon. Member who preceded me said, the actual value of the total sum is very hard to appreciate. We have, at the moment, all sorts of artificial values in boats, gear and general equipment in that industry. After the war we may find men saddled with heavy debt and a fairly heavy rate of interest. That has been the experience in the past with regard to sheep stock and housing. It will be out of all proportion to the decreasing values as things go back towards normal. I would emphasise that these men are not receiving a dole. They are establishing a right. They are making a claim which the Government are bound to concede, and it is not being conceded generously enough. Throughout the war these men have paid all the rates of interest. They have been away receiving ordinary Service rates of pay when they might have been at home perhaps making fortunes, as have some men in the industry. We have no right to charge these men any rate of interest that is more than an administrative charge. We are only compensating men who were deprived of the only possibility in the last 20 years of doing well out of the fishing industry. These men are coming back and starting all over again and it is a very small rather than a real contribution towards re-establishing them.
We are in general support of the Bill. We know that we have the good will of the Minister and a sixteenth part or so of the attention of the Secretary of State, when he is able to give a little of his time. He has his police duties, Department of 1447 Health, education and agricultural duties, the duties of his own Department and duties of all sorts, but we are sure that we, at least, have his good will and also part of his attention. I do not doubt his good will or his capacity, but it is almost impossible to expect of one-sixteenth of the Secretary of State that he will be able to tackle a problem which should be generally and comprehensively tackled by the Government as a whole as part of the reconstruction policy. Boats and gear alone are not sufficient. You can offer a man a loan or a grant at a certain rate of interest but it is a very small thing considered against the present prices. It is like offering a man a pair of bootlaces in the winter time, with the prospect of getting a pair of boots in the spring. This is a necessary step to take but it is by no means a fundamental attack on the white fish industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and Haddington (Mr. J. J. Robertson) discussed the question of jetties and the provision and modernisation of harbours. There are many problems with which the hon. and gallant Member for Argyll (Major McCallum) and the hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) and the rest of us are familiar. There is the need for making provision for hauling out small boats and making it easier for fishermen to go to and from the fishing grounds. We have a list of names of places—some of them unpronounceable to hon. Members here—up and down the country which are well known to Scottish Members where piers and jetties are required. It is no use giving men a boat and gear, whether you include engines or not, unless you get down to the problem of giving them a base or harbour in which they can safely leave their boats and can equip and provision them, and can themselves have a little of the ordinary comforts of the greater ports. The question of the priority of access to the purchase of new vessels and priority in getting loans and grants is covered fairly in the Bill and I hope that there will not be too much of the means test spirit, provided a man can prove his case of being a genuine fisherman or interested in the industry. I want to see the boats themselves owned and worked by the men who actually go to sea and do the work and take the risks, and they 1448 should benefit most from the provisions of Parliament. I think that that is the intention of the Bill and I hope that the intention will be carried out in its administration.
There are several other points I would like to mention but I will resist the temptation. They are points which were brought before the Scottish White Fishing Industry Committee, but I would like to pay my tribute—and I am sure that I speak for all members of that Committee—to the hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland, who really was an extremely hard-working chairman. I have never known one work harder on a subject of such complexity and we want to pay tribute to him and say that it was a pleasure to work under him. The question of making grants and loans relates itself to the whole question of the resettlement of these fishermen. We shall not tempt men to the Western Isles when it is open to them to go to New Zealand or Canada by saying that there is a grant of one-third of the cost of a boat, which may cost £7,000 or £8,000. They have been thinking very seriously in terms of New Zealand and Canada, where they intend to settle every one of their fishermen before they take in others. That solution is not open to them. It is up to us to determine the position in a comprehensive way by providing these men with the capital for the practical requirements of the industry. These people want to live, marry and bring up their own children in the place where their natural avocation calls them to stay—the Western Isles of our country—but what is there to attract young intelligent men to stay in those Islands? There is not enough there to attract them. If you are going to say that their stake in the British Empire after six years of war is four acres and a cow, then they will tell you, "No, we prefer to go abroad and make a contribution to the population of other lands." That is bad for them and bad for the nation as a whole, but it went on between the two wars under the Government of the right hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite.
I hope that, now, a new spirit is abroad among them and that we shall get better support from them than we got before. These men are not like bargees; they are men who live by the sea but not men who live on it. That is to say, you must equip the hinterland in which they live, 1449 and the vilages from which they come, with the amenities which they, like any other section of the community, have the right to expect and enjoy. We do not want our people to have the feeling that they are recipients of an inadequate dole. We want them to feel that we are making some return to help them after the real contribution which they made to the winning of this war.
There are some things which the Government can do, which may appear to be small, but which will be immensely helpful to life in the Islands. Many of us here have, for a long time, advocated a flat rate to be charged for the carriage of fish, and I think this will be of considerable assistance to the poorer islands. In regard to transport, such problems as transport for the disposal of the supplies of fish which the inshore fisherman bring, access to markets, quick and regular, must be tackled by this Government. It must be tackled now, because, for years, this transport problem has been strangling the economic life of the Western Isles and of the fishing community there. One of the hon. Members who spoke shortly before me referred to the need for skilled fishermen. That is a very difficult point, There are older men who are fitted to do the navigational side, much better, perhaps, than boys or younger men, and I would ask the Minister to be extremely careful in this matter of sending out an "ability test" committee. After all, the practical fisherman has to know a good deal about navigation.
Then we would like to be assured that we, who have advocated technical classes in these Islands for a long time, shall have some promise that the technical classes will be set up in the Western Isles to teach navigation and other subjects, including a certain amount of the business management of a boat. I am sure the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetlands (Sir Basil Neven-Spence) will agree that this is one of the points on which much discussion has arisen. There is a further point about social insurance, and I urge the Ministers concerned with this Bill to look into the problem of the inshore fishermen to see that they are safeguarded and equated with other workmen. There are one or two other little things which could be clone and which might be brought under the general heading of equipment. There are many huts and buildings in the 1450 Islands which are perfectly suitable for shelter, for the storage of fishermen's gear, or even for re-creational purposes. Possibly, something might be done, if not by the right hon. Gentleman's Department, then by other Departments, to acquire these huts from the Departments concerned, since they are already Government property.
When the Committee's Report is published a good deal will be said about the distributive side of the industry. The important and essential thing is to bring some order and system into the distributive side. A great deal of pruning needs to be done, and hon. Members will agree that there is too much of the unnecessary middleman and too many people who, definitely, are not required, who only inflate the cost to the consumer and do nothing to help the producer. Another thing I would like to know is how this matter is to be administered as between English and Scottish claims. Is there to be any method of handling that problem? A warning came from a former Secretary of State who said that it is not possible for one elderly gentleman to be at once the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Minister of Public Health, Education, Lunacy, Police and everything else from milk to murder. He simply cannot do it. I hope that when claims are received from Scotland, they are going to be dealt with on their merits, regardless of the part of the country from which they come. Let this infernal 11–8oths business go. Let us get rid of it. It has gone in afforestation and water; let us get rid of it in fisheries. It has been the bane of Scottish finance for many years.
Are we to have, in the House of Commons, a Minister answerable to Scottish hon. Members? Is the Secretary of State to be answerable to us on all Scottish questions? I would like to know whether the Secretary of State will be answerable to us on the Scottish problems in connection with this Bill and what arises out of it. Can I have an assurance that we shall have a Minister fully answerable to this House on these Scottish problems?
Finally, I want to refer to this question of inshore fishing as regards the depredations of trawlers. We got an answer yesterday from a right hon. Gentleman on our Front Bench which I, knowing him, thought was intended to be sympathetic but which was, to say the 1451 least, ambiguous. He said that he knew there was a strong case to be made out for the inshore fishermen, but there were also the interests of deep sea trawlers to consider. I think it must be remembered that, when the deep sea trawler comes into inshore waters, he is no longer a deep sea trawler but a pirate, whether Englishman, Dutchman or Frenchman. I notice that when they come into English waters from the French coast even the B.B.C. takes notice. They are immediately surrounded by naval craft and escorted back, and the worst interpretation is placed upon it by the French authorities. Are hon. Members aware that for years past, not only during the war, but before it, there was not a bay up and down the Western Islands into which trawlers did not come, day and night, under the very noses of the authorities, breaking the law with contempt? They pay as they earn, and sometimes in advance. They anticipate that they may be fined £100, or £200, but they can make that up in a few minutes in the Islands' waters. It is time we got down to the problem of illegal trawling. You will never protect the inshore fishing world unless you do stop this robbery of men who have been of the best service to their country in the Merchant Navy, in the minesweepers, and the Royal Navy.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Major Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
One thing stands out in this Debate. Although this Bill deals with a comparatively narrow point, assistance for the re-equipping of the inshore fishing industry, it covers a. wide field, and many other subjects arise. I am sure the Minister realises that this is not the last we want to hear of the white fishing, because there are a great number of other problems that call for urgent attention. With regard to this Bill, I think I detected the Minister in a slight slip when he referred to white fish in connection with the Bill. Actually, I do not think the words "white fish" occur at all. The inshore fishing industry is referred to as the landing of sea fish by the use of boats of a certain size. Clause 3 does not tie up with white fish at all, although it does say, quite specifically, that assistance will not be available for boats, wholly or mainly, used in catching herring. I am glad it is left like that, because I am sure the 1452 Minister realises that you cannot draw any hard and fast line, and that assistance will be given under this Bill for boats which will inevitably have to spend part of their time in herring fishing. I would not put any obstacle in the way of that.
The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), who, I am sorry to see, is no longer here, knows very well that fishermen have learned by bitter experience in the past the unwisdom of being tied up to one particular kind of fishing. This happened, particularly, in the case of the herring industry. It only requires a succession of years of bad catches, or a series of years in which the markets are poor, for these men to find themselves ruined. It had a very unfortunate result in some fishing areas, which led to the practice of inshore fishermen maintaining two types of boats to follow their calling, a herring drifter, steam, motor or sailing, for following herring fishing during part of the year, and a smaller boat to follow the white fishing, possibly haddock. Nothing could be worse than that, because it means that the men are saddled with two lots of costs. Unless a fishing boat is kept fishing throughout the year she cannot pay her overhead expenses.
A feature of recent years, associated more particularly with the growth of seine net fishing, has been the evolution of a new type of fishing vessel, the Diesel engine craft, suitable for engaging in all kinds of fishing, with seine net, cod net or line, or, it may be, fishing for herrings with ring net or drift net. This type of Diesel engine craft evolved in recent years is the answer to the fisherman's prayer. She can be on the sea all the year round, following whatever kind of fishing happens to be profitable at a particular time. These Diesel engine craft are good sea boats, and the larger type are quite comfortable to live in, and the Diesel engines are very economical to run.
No doubt boats of this type will be the ones chiefly built with the assistance to be given under this Bill. One or two hon. Members have referred to certain boats which the Admiralty have built during the war for their own purposes. I do not want to throw any doubt on the usefulness of these boats, and I think the smaller type will be quite useful for fishing purposes. They will undoubtedly require a good deal of money spent on them to convert them into fishing boats. But the 1453 fisherman ought to be very wary indeed about the larger types. I have seen them on the slips, and they looked to me clumsy, very high in the sides, and, in other respects, not likely to make good fishing boats. I only refer to that because the hon. Member for Banff referred to the experience fishermen had with the standard drifters after the last war, which were probably the biggest millstone ever hung round the men's necks, and I should be very sorry to see the men using either their own money, or getting a grant, or borrowing money, to buy such boats, unsuitable as they certainly were. In so far as these Admiralty boats are really suitable for fishing, it will cost a lot of money to alter them for fishing purposes, and I hope, therefore, that, in disposing of these boats, the price will be fixed reasonably low.
This Bill, of course, deals exclusively with the inshore fishing industry, in so far as that industry is engaged in catching white fish, and it is just as well that we should have a clear idea of the importance of the inshore white-fish industry in relation to the white-fish industry as a whole. The first fact that emerges is that the inshore white-fish industry is much more important, relatively, in Scotland than it is in England. In 1938, the Scottish inshore fishing industry landed 17 per cent. of the total weight of white fish landed in Scotland. The corresponding figure in England was just 1 per cent. I do not know what the more recent figures are, but probably the 1938 ones will be a guide. If the total contribution is relatively small from the point of food supply, I want to stress that it is extremely important for several other reasons. One or two have been referred to by the Minister, but I do not think he mentioned one to which I attach considerable importance, and that is the very high quality of the produce landed by the inshore fishing industry. It is the best we get.
Then there are some strong social reasons, because, unlike the trawling industry where those engaged in it are concentrated in a few large ports, the inshore fishing industry is based on innumerable small towns and villages and creeks scattered all round the coasts of Britain. It is, therefore, a very important means of livelihood for the coastal population. Previous speakers have referred to the importance of this industry 1454 to the Navy in time of war—the number of men it gets to man the patrol vessels and the mine sweepers and so on—but it is sometimes overlooked that this inshore fishing industry is a most important recruiting ground for the deep sea industry and also for the Merchant Navy. Finally, I think we ought to recognise that the inshore fishing industry has made a most valuable contribution to our food supplies during the war. We have depended enormously on them for our fish. So, for those five reasons I think it is a matter of considerable national importance that we should see this industry established on a firm basis.
The hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), who is no longer here, referred to the fact that there are people who regard this inshore industry as a dying one. Nothing could be further from the truth. They take the mistaken view that sooner or later the catching of fish must pass more and more into the hands of the large-scale, organised enterprise such as you get in the trawling industry. The case of Lossiemouth, to which the hon. Member for Banff referred, is, I think, a very good illustration of what the future of this industry may be. Of course, it is not only Lossiemouth but the men in the Moray Firth, but for certain reasons, over quite a large stretch of that coast fishing has tended to become concentrated in Lossiemouth, the reason really being the harbour facilities there. These Moray Firth fishermen, in common with all the other inshore fishermen round our coasts, were at one time line fishermen. Then, when trawling became prevalent they fell on hard times and turned to herring fishing. They enjoyed a long spell of prosperity when that was a prosperous industry, but then the herring fishing failed—I am talking now of the period between the two wars—and the state of these men became desperate. It has, indeed, often been referred to in this House. A few of them then started working with the seine net which was introduced into Scotland in 1921. I think it would interest the House to know that in that year these Lossiemouth men landed 254 tons of white fish valued at £14,711. By 1938, that is 18 years later, the catch had grown to 5,089 tons of fish valued at £127,000. That does not look to me like a dying industry. There is a section of the industry which has modernised itself, gone in for new methods, and been highly successful. 1455 I believe that lesson could be applied to many other parts round our coasts and that there could be considerable development of this seine net fishing. I hope this Bill will enable us to go ahead with its development.
The hon. Member for the Western Isles (Mr. MacMillan) raised a good point: what proportion of these grants is to go to the Scottish inshore fishing industry? I agree generally that assistance must go where it is needed, but certainly the figure of eleven-eightieths to which he referred must go by the board. We could not possibly accept eleven-eightieths of the grant, because, if hon. Members will look at the Duncan Report, they will find that the Scottish inshore white fish landings in 1935 were three times as great in quantity and four times as great in value as the English landings of white fish from inshore fishing. So it looks as if we shall have to stick out for from 75 per cent, to 80 per cent, of this money.
I must refer to one other thing which has a considerable bearing on the situation. Between 1911 and 1938 it has been observed that the English landings of white fish had risen by 50 per cent. and during the same period Scottish landings had fallen by 10 per cent. Analysis shows that this trend was mainly confined to the trawling industry, and that the rise in the English landings was mainly due to the development that had taken place at Hull, where they built vessels to exploit the distant waters. The Scottish fishermen, who are mainly concerned with the North Sea, suffered a great decline in landings and the English fishermen exploiting the same waters had exactly the same circumstances to contend with—that is, fishing in the near and middle waters they were encountering a growing scarcity of fish, more particularly in the North Sea, and that entailed more effort to catch fewer and smaller fish until, finally, production became uneconomic; in other words, over-fishing had been established. A great deal of scientific study has been devoted to this question, and it ought to be possible now to state with reasonable accuracy the total weight of white fish that ought to be harvested out of these waters in any given year, and also to state with fair accuracy the total amount of catching power that ought to be devoted to this industry.
1456 We saw the near and middle waters over-fished before the last war. We saw the stocks recover during the last war when there was no trawling in these waters. We saw over-fishing at work again in the interval between the two wars. Once more we have seen the stocks recover. What I want to know is, Are the Government going to sit with their hands folded and allow the same disastrous sequence to occur again? If they do that, I say that all the assistance offered under this Bill will be of no use whatever. The answer to this question is really one of vital importance to the white fishing industry. It is known that intensive trawling in the deeper waters produces a scarcity of stocks in the inshore fishing waters; the more the deeper waters are swept bare of fish, the greater is the temptation of the deep water fishermen to poach on the grounds of the inshore fishermen—the only only grounds on which they can make a living. I urge the Minister to lose no time whatever in trying to arrange for an international conference to thrash out this problem of over fishing. The matter bristles with difficulties, but over-fishing is a suicidal practice and in the interests of food supplies, the fishing industry and fishermen of all nations agreement ought to be reached about it. I am not sure about the Admiralty's attitude on this question. I know they have always taken the view that we could not have too many fishing vessels. They were getting what they wanted on the cheap, at the expense of the fishing industry, which I do not think was right, because it could not in the long run benefit them if the fishing industry was in an uneconomic state.
I ask the Government to reflect on the consequences of an uneconomic fishing industry. In Scotland alone, nearly 18,000 men left the industry between 1913 and 1938 to take all sorts of other jobs. Ultimately, there will have to be agreement on the total tonnage of fishing vessels in the North Sea, and an agreed quota for the different nations. I hope a close eye will be kept, also, on the inshore fishing industry, because there is always the possibility that over-fishing will rear its head there too, if too many boats are built. I do not want to take up any more time on this issue except to say that I am glad the Bill has been introduced and ask whether the White Fish Commission could be revived? It did a lot of useful work for 1457 the inshore fishing industry as well as for other sections. The administration of the Herring Industry Act has been handed over to the Herring Board, administration which I think could have been well done by the White Fish Commission. For this and many other reasons I think that that Commission could very well be revived.
§ 8.35 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
I would have liked to follow the last two Members in their rather wide survey of this problem, but there is not now time to do more than ask one or two questions strictly confined to the terms of the Bill. This Measure is designed to encourage fishermen to purchase boats. It is plain that these boats will be most useful to the men if they are regarded as dual-purpose vessels, that is, suitable for both white fishing and herring fishing. All advanced opinion in the industry is agreed that it is in the dual-purpose boat that we should invest our money, faith and enterprise. If there are to be dual-purpose boats will the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland tell me what is to be the administrative link between the building of new boats under this Bill and new boats under the recent Herring Act? The boats under the Herring Act were also to be largely dual-purpose boats, and it seems to me that the two will dovetail into each other. I hope that point will be cleared up.
My second point arises out of the price of these boats. I think it was the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), in his most attractive maiden speech, who first drew attention to this matter. I believe the figures he quoted are underestimates of the danger. I am told by those who understand the facts in Scotland that for a new boat of the kind we have in mind, the 60 ft. dual-purpose boat, the estimated cost is at present £8,500. That is a ridiculous price. Fishermen could not possibly face liabilities attached to a figure of that kind. You could lend what you like, one-third, or two-thirds, but you would still leave the fisherman with an intolerable burden. The Government must face up to that at once before going a step further with this Bill. They must get the facts about the cost of building these boats. I am told that in Sweden such a boat can be built for under £7,000 and that in Ireland the figure is still 1458 lower. I do not know what the actual figure is, but I do know that until the question of price is tackled all that we are trying to do to-night will be wasted effort. I ask the Under-Secretary to assure us that robust steps will be taken to cut down these excessive prices. There are rings in the boat building industry, and they have to be broken, and in asking for them to be broken I am not preaching Socialism. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] No, that is plain sense, and I ask that that should be done.
With regard to nets and gear, I was told by a prominent fisherman in Scotland that nets which before the war cost £3 10s. now cost £8 10s. We all know about the scarcity of material and labour, but something is happening there that needs investigation. Free enterprise does not mean that any one enterprise has the right to exploit the rest of the community. If there is exploitation going on in these matters it ought to be tackled. I have confined myself to those few questions in the hope that by asking only those the Under-Secretary will be able to give me a definite reply.
§ 8.40 p.m.
§ Colonel Thornton-Kemsley (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Western)
One of the attractive features of the Debate is the unanimous and good reception which has been accorded to this little but useful Measure before the House. Hon. Members have spoken from all parts of the coast of the United Kingdom. We started off with the famous fishing port of Lowestoft, went from there to Cornwall, along that rugged coast up to the North-East of Scotland, and heard a maiden speech from the port of Aberdeen; from there to the Moray Firth, that famous fishing ground, on to Berwick-upon-Tweed, to the vicinity of the Cinque Ports, to the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland, and then to the coast of the Kingdom of Fife.
From all these ports this little but useful Measure has met with a good reception. As the right hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) pointed out, there are two good reasons at least why the inshore fishing industry is specially worth Government assistance at the present time. The fishing villages along the coast of Britain are nurseries for the Royal Navy and for the Merchant Navy. The younger 1459 men in the industry are almost always, or at least often, naval reservists who are the first to be mobilised, and, unless they leave partners behind them, they leave their boats and their gear to deteriorate. The older men have carried on magnificently, facing the new dangers of the mines and the machine-gunning aeroplane, and sometimes of the U-boat, in addition to the age-old perils of the sea. The fisherman served his country well in time of war. He deserves a decent livelihood in time of peace.
The second reason why the inshore fishing industry is worth encouragement at this time is the plain but simple fact that we need fish. Shortage of meat and of cheese creates a fine opportunity for expanding the markets for white fish and, although it is not particularly germane to this discussion, for that wholesome fish, the herring. From every point of view it is desirable, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, to create in this country a contented body of fishermen and to ensure a plentiful supply of fish. The inshore fishing industry lacks capital, it lacks the right type of craft, and, what is more important, it lacks confidence in itself. The Measure which this House is discussing to-night will do much to help the industry to regain confidence in itself and its rightful place in our national economy. In order that it should do that, it needs more young men, it needs new craft, and it needs guaranteed markets for the fish which will be caught by the new entrants in their new boats. That is really the crux of the problem. It is no good giving grants or making loans unless you can ensure that when the fish is caught there will be a remunerative market for it.
I have spent a good deal of the last two week-ends among fishermen in my constituency. I had the pleasure of talking things over with many men who have recently come out of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy, and they told me about their difficulties, some of which this little Bill is designed to ameliorate. They told me that it costs them now £40 to equip themselves with oilskins, sea-boots, sea jerseys and lines. It would have cost them about £20 before the war. A small line which cost £2 2s. 6d. before the war costs £10 now. A cod net which cost 10s. to 12s. 6d. before the war to-day costs 32s. 6d., and motor boats, as more than one speaker has pointed out, which 1460 before the war cost £1,500 to £2,000 now cost about four times as much—£6,000 to £8,000.
It was advertised in the Press last week that surplus naval craft are being offered for sale. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Major Sir B. Neven-Spence) who made such a great contribution to the inshore fishermen's well-being by the care and attention which he gave to his task as chairman of the White Fish Committee, has spoken of the type of craft required by the inshore fishermen to-day. That craft must be fast, it will probably have a diesel engine, it must be sea-worthy, and it must be capable of accommodating the family unit of three men and a boy.
I want to make one constructive suggestion to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, if he will allow me to call him that, before I give way to the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, and I do hope he will take up this suggestion, because it is one, I think, which will be of great benefit to the fishermen round our Coasts. I hope that, after taking the best advice available to him, he will select one or two types of these surplus naval craft which would be most suitable to the inshore fishermen and send them on tour, after due advertisement, round the Coast of Britain, with someone in them who can point out their advantages and disadvantages, and who can give the fishermen, of our fishing villages ample opportunity of trying them out and seeing whether they are the kind of craft they want. It is quite impossible for the fishermen in my own constituency in North-East Scotland to visit the Director of Small Craft Disposals in Surrey. They might try the boat, out if the right hon. Gentleman would adopt my suggestion. I am sure he would agree with me that it would be quite wrong that assistance should be given under this Bill to enable a fisherman to buy a new boat if suitable types of auxiliary war vessels could be obtained for less money.
The Government has announced its intention of taking all necessary steps to promote the well-being of the fishing industry. This legacy of the National Government is the first step in what we all hope will be a long-term policy for the fishing industry. It is a welcome one, 1461 and one which will be well received along the coast of Britain.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)
Hon. Members in all parts of the House have this evening given this Bill their blessing. Some have said that it is a very little Bill, that it does not go quite far enough, but all of them, without exception, have said that it is a very good Bill so far as it goes. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries also said at the outset of the Debate that it was a little Bill, that it did not deal with all the ills or all problems of the fishing industry, but that it was a very urgent Measure, that it dealt with a problem which had to be dealt with immediately, which is the reason why we have this Bill before us so early in this Session. Many hon. Members put questions to me which I am afraid would take far too much time to answer this evening, and we have not got too much time. Most of the hon. Members who put those questions this evening appreciated at the time they put them that they fell pretty wide of the Bill, and that in consequence it would not be necessary for me to answer them when winding up this Debate.
There were some questions put which bore relevance to the Measure before us, and I propose to do my best to give an answer to them. First of all, not one but two or three hon. Members spoke about the length of the craft of which we are to facilitate the purchase or repair. They referred to the limit of 70 feet to which we had gone, and one or two Members said it would be desirable to extend this limit to 75 feet. We had to draw a line somewhere, and from the best advice I can get it seems to have been wise on our part to draw the line at 70 feet. I am advised that if we had gone to 75 feet we should have been getting into the realm of the trawler men, and that there was no need to go to the 75 foot length in this Bill. I believe that if there are vessels of that length, or if it would be otherwise desirable to procure vessels of that length, and with the corresponding weight which would inevitably go with it, it might very well be that assistance towards the purchase of such vessels could be obtained under the Act applying to the herring fishing industry which was passed by this House 1462 in 1944, so there would seem to be little need to extend the limit beyond 70 feet.
One or two hon. Members also asked questions about the price of loans to be given under this Measure. My right hon. Friend in opening the Debate said that we had not yet decided on the price of any money we proposed to lend under the provisions of this Measure, but he gave an assurance that we would not be ungenerous, that we would not be unreasonable, that we would see to it that the Treasure agreed with us to give money for the purposes provided in this Bill at a reasonable price. Hon. Members can have confidence in the promise made this afternoon by my right hon. Friend. Some hon. Members also asked me about harbours, and said that it was no use encouraging the building up of a decent fleet for these inshore fishermen if we did not give them better facilities at the harbour, I do not think that any of the hon. Members who raised that issue to-day really expected that when we introduced this Inshore Fishing Industry Bill we would include within its provisions a provision for improving existing harbours or laying down new harbours. We already have legislation applying to England, and other legislation applying to Scotland, that enables the respective Ministers concerned to give some assistance in the renovation and the building of harbours for this purpose. Of course, we will continue to pay attention to the need for providing adequate harbour facilities.
One or two hon. Members raised the question of the Admiralty craft that may very soon become available. We have, as one hon. Member indicated, some 61 footers and 45 footers constructed and employed by the Admiralty during the war years that may very well be used later by fishermen connected with the inshore fishing industry. I very much hope that inshore fishermen will take advantage of the provisions of this Measure by procuring for themselves some of these Admiralty vessels. It would be shameful if we should find ourselves in the position of having suitable Admiralty vessels doing nothing while the inshore fishing industry was crying out for new vessels.
§ Mr. Fraser
So long as they are suitable. I understand that many of them may very well be suitable for this purpose with 1463 adaptation. I put it no higher than that. The price is something which will be negotiated at another time. That is another matter which obviously does not fall to be dealt with in the Bill before the House.
I was also asked some questions by my hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) about the amount of the grant. I think he was the only hon. Member who did, in a measure, if only in a measure, criticise the Bill because of the amount of grant contained therein. He was foreseeing the very greatly increased cost of vessels in the immediate future. But the amount of grant we are giving is 33⅓ per cent. of the total amount. It must be granted that if these fishermen are to be asked to pay an unreasonably enhanced price for the vessels, the grant will be less advantageous than it would otherwise be. That again is another matter with which we could not possibly deal in this Bill. I agree also that we must pay some attention to the price to be paid for the vessels. I am indebted to the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Stewart) who has called our attention to the need to exercise the strictest control over the manufacturers, to see to it that they are not charging more than a reasonable price for their vessels. I hope we will pay the strictest regard to it, and I do not think hon. Members in any quarter of the House need at this stage, so early in the life of this new Government, call the attention of the Government to the need for exercising more and increasing controls over industry.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles and the hon. and gallant Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) asked me about the allocation of moneys as between England and Wales, and both of them mentioned the eleven-eightieths formula as a system we sometimes have applied when allocating granted moneys to Scotland. Of course, it would be quite fantastic to apply the eleven-eightieths rule in this case, but it would be very unwise of me and of any Minister at this early stage to try to determine the allocation of moneys as between England, Wales and Scotland. I hope we will deal with applications from inshore fishermen in Scotland as they will be dealt with in England and Wales. It would be quite 1464 stupid at this early stage to try to determine any rigid apportionment between one country and another. I hope that as a result of this Bill we will be able to put the inshore fishing industry in both countries on to its feet.
I do not think very many other points were raised in the course of the Debate with which I need deal this evening in furthering the argument in favour of the Bill before the House. One or two hon. Members did, however, say that it would be a very good thing if, when inshore fishermen were acquiring new vessels, heed were given to the desirability of building a dual purpose vessel. I am not aware that we in any way restrict the use of the vessels used by the inshore fishermen. I believe it is true to say that the inshore fishermen in Scotland even now sometimes go 20 or 30 miles out to sea in pursuit of their calling. It would perhaps be wrong to recognise them strictly as inshore fishermen if they should do that, but, so far as I am aware, they will still be able to do that with the vessels we hope to assist them in procuring under the terms of the Bill at present before us. I think that is as far as I can go this evening.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
Would the hon. Gentleman answer the question that I put? It was very important. The question was, how to avoid the confusion between the administration of the loans under this Act and the almost similar loans granted under the Herring Fishing Act?
§ Mr. Fraser
I am not aware that there will be any confusion. They will be quite different people, I think, who apply for loans. The men who are engaged in herring fishing may, of course, make application under the Herring Industry Act. Men who are engaged mainly in inshore fishing may make application for a grant under this Act. I do not think there is any likelihood of some fishermen falling between the two and getting nothing out of either of them.
I think that all fishermen engaged in one or other type of fishing will find themselves in the position of being able to get the sort of assistance we are proposing to give them, this Bill being not dissimilar to the Herring Industry Act in the assistance given.
1465 As my right hon. Friend said in opening this discussion, the Bill does not purport to do all that is required for the inshore fishing industry on a long-term basis. Many hon. Members have said that what we want is a long-term policy. Of course we all want to get a long-term policy. The Government have not been in office a very long time, and I am hoping, as many hon. Members have hoped, that this will merely be the first of many Measures calculated to give encouragement and assistance to the fishing industry. Hon. Members have spoken with a good deal of feeling, and I think it not inappropriate that I should pay a little tribute to many of the maiden speakers who have spoken in the Debate. All of them spoke with a great deal of knowledge and understanding of this industry. My experience in this House is that that is usually so. Hon. Members making their maiden speeches invariably choose a Debate in which they can speak with knowledge and understanding of the subject under review. To-day was no exception. Every one of those hon. Members who were speaking for the first time spoke with the greatest knowledge of the fishing industry.
We have brought this Bill before the House knowing that we would get universal support for it. Many hon. Members have referred to the fact that it was prepared by the Coalition Government and is a legacy from them. That is true, and it seems to me to augur well for the future that we can have on all sides of the House such ready agreement to a Measure which is calculated to give encouragement to one of our basic industries. I hope that the same sort of encouragement will be given to many other industries which must inevitably be covered by Bills brought before the House in the very near future.
§ Mr. Beechman
The hon. Gentleman has not dealt with questions raised as to "cases of need." I asked for an assurance that "cases of need" will not be grudgingly interpreted. I also asked how "cases of need" are to be assessed and by whom.
§ Mr. Fraser
I think the hon. Member is asking for quite a lot. We had to come before the House to get permission to spend a certain amount of Government money on helping the inshore fishing 1466 industry. Of course we will be careful, while not being ungenerous, in the administration of this Measure. We will not give money easily, and I hope, on the other hand, that we will not be too grudging in the assistance we give. I cannot describe in minute detail the form of machinery we shall use to examine applications. I can give an assurance, however, that applications will be investigated and dealt with strictly on their merits.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill accordingly read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.