HC Deb 18 November 1946 vol 430 cc515-7
Sir Wavell Wakefield

asked the Minister of Agriculture why approximately half the East Anglian herring fleet has recently been remaining idle in port when food is required in this country and in Europe for human and animal consumption.

Mr. T. Williams

The exceptionally large catches made during the four days ending 7th November, when 70,000 crans were landed as against 63,770 in the whole of the previous week, taxed the capacity of all outlets for the remainder of the week. To enable the accumulation of herring to be dealt with the Herring In- dustry Board closed the ports on 8th and 9th November, and restricted sailing to 60 vessels on the night of 10th-11th November. The Herring Industry Board assure me that their policy is at all times to endeavour to obtain the maximum quantities which can be handled.

Sir W. Wakefield

Does not the Minister think that, in view of the Government's responsibility for the provision of food for Germany, the fact that these men and ships have been remaining idle, when there is so much fish to catch, is a reflection on the lack of planning and lack of foresight of the Government, and another example of Socialist incompetence?

Mr. Williams

It is certainly nothing of the kind. The Herring Industry Board are operating under a Measure passed by the Coalition Government, and, therefore, no charge can be levelled at this Government. The hon. Member must be aware, I presume, that the Minister has no power to issue directions to the Herring Industry Board.

Mr. Edward Evans

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great dissatisfaction in Lowestoft at the operations of the Herring Control Committee there, and will he have the whole question of the local area committee re-examined?

Mr. Williams

I am aware that there have been complaints from merchants, but I am not aware that there have been complaints from the fishermen themselves. Perhaps the House will be interested to learn that of the catches already taken, only 41.5 per cent. is used for home purposes.

Air-Commodore Harvey

Is not the Minister aware that had proper arrangements been made, these herrings could have been taken to Germany, and that an agreement has just been made between the Dutch Government and the Allied Control Commission to buy Dutch herrings; and will he consult with his colleagues to get this matter rectified?

Mr. Williams

As a matter of fact, a large quantity of herrings has been shipped to Germany already—as many as there were ships available to convey them. The Minister of Food has made arrangements for a greater number of sailing ships if surpluses should arise in the future.

Air-Commodore Harvey

In view of the very unsatisfactory nature of the reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.

63. Mr. Symonds

asked the Minister of Agriculture if he will arrange for the East Anglian herring fleet to be fully employed and for catches surplus to United Kingdom requirements to be delivered direct to the British zone of Germany.

Mr. Williams

The Herring Industry Board have assured me that they will take all possible steps to ensure that maximum supplies of herrings are provided for the various markets. Twenty-four thousand crans of fresh herrings have already been shipped from East Anglia to the British zone of Germany; and 61,000 crans have been pickle-cured, the bulk of which will also be shipped to Germany. The direct landing of herrings into Germany from the East Anglian fishing grounds by British drifters is not practicable, but my right hon. Friends the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Minister of Food are arranging for increased supplies to Germany by carrier vessels.

Mr. Symonds

Can my right hon. Friend say why a ship cannot deliver fish to Hamburg equally as well as to Lowestoft?

Mr. Williams

Because I am informed that drifters cannot do the round trip, and that a special sailing vessel is required for that purpose.

Mr. Bossom

Can the Minister say why it is impracticable?

Mr. Williams

I have indicated that there are fuel problems for a drifter.