§ 11.5 a.m.
§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. J. J. Robertson)
I beg to move, in page 2, line 27, after "used," to insert:by way of trade or business.The principle of this Amendment was agreed to in the Committee upstairs, and all that was necessary was to find a form of words which would give sanction to the principle contained therein. That has been done now by the words which appear on the Order Paper.
§ Mr. Assheton (City of London)
We are much obliged to the hon. Gentleman for what he has said. This Amendment meets our original object, and all we need do now is to thank him for introducing it.
§ Mr. Douglas Marshall (Bodmin)
I also wish to thank the Government for agreeing to this Amendment. There is just one point I should like to add. When speaking upstairs I raised the question not only of pleasure craft, which are now dealt with, but that of experimental tests. I trust that His Majesty's Government consider that the words they have proposed cover such tests, and I hope they will give an assurance on that point.
§ Amendment agreed to.
§ 11.8 a.m.
§ Mr. J. J. Robertson
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
818 This House has reason to congratulate itself on the way that both sides have co-operated to send this Bill speedily on its way. The Bill is a short one and contains financial provisions which should be of direct benefit both to the inshore fishing and to the herring sections of the fishing industry but it also contains important provisions dealing with over fishing and it was right that these conditions should be examined in the Committee upstairs. Some hon. Members expressed concern lest under this Clause dealing with fishing the Government would impose one-sided restrictions on our own fishing industry which did not apply to the fishermen of other countries fishing in the North Sea. I want to say quite categorically and to assure the House that that is not our intention. We certainly desire to see adequate measures taken in all countries concerned, for unless satisfactory measures are brought into force we and all those other countries concerned will suffer in two particular ways, first, because we shall get less of the good quality fish from the North Sea; and, secondly, because catching fish would become much less of an economic proposition.
The passage of this Bill will give us the opportunity to redouble our effort to secure international agreement, and to put into force the various measures which each country has put forward for a solution of the over fishing problems. The Bill is at once a mark of our determination to play our part and a symbol of our faith in the ability of the nations concerned to co-operate in solving a problem which threatens the well being of all.
Of the Clauses which deal with the inshore fishing industry, Clause 3 by providing additional sums for grants and loans for boats and gear will enable us to continue making grants and loans to fishermen who are anxious to obtain new boats and equipment. Here I may say that the provision made in the Inshore Fishing Industry Act, 1945, for grants has almost run out, while the provision for loans is already exhausted, and but for this Bill the scheme of assistance would have had to be brought to an end.
Clause 4 provides for loans for fishermen's co-operative societies. I hope that societies which have already been formed will take advantage of this provision. It will encourage the fishermen 819 at ports where there is no co-operative society to recognise the advantages to be derived from co-operative action in such matters as purchase of equipment and stores and marketing their catch, and to follow the example of their colleagues at ports where co-operative societies are already flourishing concerns. I think, for example, of an experiment which was carried out during the last two years in the little port of Eyemouth in my own constituency, which has been completely successful and has brought great benefits to the fishermen concerned.
The provisions of the Bill which concern the herring industry deal with finance and procedure. On the financial side increased grants are provided for the Herring Industry Board to assist them in various schemes but very largely to cover the cost of new factories for converting herring to oil and other products. This is important because it will help us to augment our oil supplies from our home resources. Herring oil can be used in such things as margarine or for industrial purposes and I should like to assure hon. Members that this scheme will not divert herring from the more usual forms for human consumption.
Nor does it mean that the Herring Industry Board or the Government do not favour quick freezing of herring. We are in favour of the maximum extension of quick freezing and the Board are among the pioneers in this development. Fortunately, there are enough herring in the sea to provide more than is required for the supply for quick freezing, kippering, the fresh herring market and all the other forms in which herring are marketed and consumed. Hon. Members familiar with the industry know that the fishing is so unpredictable that there are frequent gluts. The oil and meal factories will provide an outlet able very largely to handle the recurring surpluses.
The provisions laying down procedure will provide a quicker and therefore more flexible means of conferring powers on the Herring Industry Board so that the Board may meet any problem which arises. The Board have wide powers at present but in several respects they have been found too limiting. The new procedure provides all concerned with an opportunity of scrutinising schemes giving powers to the Board—and of making their 820 views known. In addition I can say that the Departments concerned will help by sending copies of draft schemes to the associations representing the interests concerned. This House will have the final say in any scheme because no scheme will become effective unless it is approved by affirmative Resolution.
Speaking as one who had early experience as a fisherman, I am certain that this Bill will be welcomed by the industry and that it will be of real assistance to a fine body of men who have served the nation so valiantly in two world wars. For all these reasons I commend this Bill to the House.
§ 11.17 a.m.
§ Mr. Assheton
It is a pleasure which does not very often come to me in these days to be able to commend to the House a Bill which has been introduced and carried through by the present Government. This is such an occasion today. I was very glad to hear the line which the Parliamentary Secretary took in moving the Third Reading. Speaking on behalf of the Opposition, I must say that not only do we welcome the improvements made by the Bill, but we agree that, thought it may be a small Bill, it certainly deals with a very large and important industry.
It is an industry in which I took a great interest at one time when I vas associated with the London and North-Eastern Railway, but since this House deprived me of that association I have not had as much nor as up-to-date information on the subject as I used to have. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) told us that the pre-war level of landings of fish have almost been completely restored, and an industry of that size must be of importance and of great concern to this House. I do not know whether everyone appreciates the fact that before the war the amount of fish landed in these islands was twice the weight of Argentine meat imported, which gives some measure of the size of the industry.
The hon. Gentleman has told us about the merits of this Bill, that it regulates the size of the mesh of nets and, therefore, limits the size of fish to be caught, and that it gives power to control fishing by the licensing of boats in the North Sea. I was very glad to hear what he had to 821 say with regard to the other countries, though I was a little sorry that we did not hear from him any details as to the most recent attitude of some of the countries which are concerned in this matter. If it were possible either for him or for another hon. Gentleman on the Government Front Bench to tell us any more about that at a later stage in the Debate I should be very glad to know. We welcome the provisions for increased grants for inshore fishing men, and, although the landings in Scotland are a greater proportion than they are in England, nonetheless even in England they are a substantial portion of the fish which are landed in this country.
As far as the herring industry is concerned, we welcome the provisions, but we are not quite sure that they go far enough, and on that I daresay we shall hear further from other hon. Members. The provision of further funds and powers to the Herring Board will certainly assist in maintaining the market and obviating gluts. In view of the world shortage of fats, I have no doubt that every assistance ought to be given to the oil reduction activities of the Board, and that possibly these powers ought to be extended. I do not know whether it is true, but I understand that there is no immediate likelihood of the danger of over-fishing herring and, therefore, I suppose we should concentrate on increasing the market for fresh and cured herrings and also for expanding the oil reduction capacity.
I dare say that this Bill will do a great deal of what is wanted, but if need be, I hope the Government will not hesitate to introduce further legislation. Quite clearly, we want to maintain as large a supply of fish as we can, and to do that the control of over-fishing is essential. Then we want to maintain steady employment and prosperity and security for this industry. We want to provide more food for the people, and we want to expand our export trade of processed herring if we can, and I doubt not it is important to maintain as much research as possible to help in these matters.
In the early part of the Book of Genesis mankind was told to have dominion over the fishes of the sea, and it is not always that a Parliamentary Bill carries out Divine intention, but on this occasion it appears to me that it does. Unfortunately, 822 after that instruction had been given, the Tower of Babel was built, and that has added to our difficulties considerably. Until the time comes when we are able to persuade all the countries concerned to co-operate in these objects, the full advantages of this Bill obviously cannot be attained. Therefore, in commending this Bill to the House from the point of view of the Opposition, I express the hope the Government will pursue that part of the matter as speedily and keenly as they possibly can, and that they will try to ensure that other countries implement the important arrangements proposed at the time of the international discussions.
§ 11.23 a.m.
§ Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)
In welcoming this Bill I shall be brief because a great deal of the ground has been covered on the Second Reading and in the Committee stage. Although I welcome the Bill, I have grave doubts as to its complete effectiveness. Although it goes a certain distance, we shall be deluding ourselves if we think that by it we shall make effective progress in controlling the overfishing of immature fish, which is the crux of the matter. One has only to visit any of the fishing ports on the East Coast to see the high percentage of immature fish that we are taking out of the North Sea. Unfortunately an increasing percentage of fish which have not reached spawning age and of which figures were given on the Second Reading are being taken.
I suggest that a great deal more must be done in the way of controlling the landings of these small fish. When the Minister makes an order to promulgate the recommendations in Clause 1 I hope he will take measures to see that there is a restrict on, indeed a complete ban, on the landings of small fish both from British and foreign ships. We have only to refer to the International Conference in 1946 and the Convention that followed it, to find how strongly the landing of small fish was deprecated there.
I have a great deal of doubt, too, as to whether the concessions we are making, which are considerable, will be balanced by the concessions from foreign countries. As I understand it, there is no likelihood of many of the foreign countries limiting the size of their fleets. We are committed to limit our fleet to 85 per cent. of 823 its pre-war tonnage, and it has not been made clear, either from the opening statement of the Minister or during the Committee stage, how far foreign countries will march with us. We understand that they will make different concessions, that they will take different steps, but it would be interesting to know what steps they will take to balance the restrictions which we shall impose on our own fleets.
With regard to the herring industry, with which we in East Anglia are concerned no less than our Scottish friends, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, fortunately there is no danger at present of over-fishing. Indeed, we want to take every step possible to go in for all-out fishing of the herring, and we have to examine what inducements we can give to our fishermen in order that they shall take herring to the maximum capacity. I feel that the differential scales laid down by the Herring Board for their different catches act detrimentally to the desire we all have that the fishermen shall catch as many herring as they can. When it is remembered that the first price is nearly 90s. and that it descends gradually to 30s. a cran, with the added cost of fuel, the wear and tear on nets, the high labour costs, it is no great inducement to these men to catch herring. I suggest that the Herring Board seriously consider whether one overall price would not, in the end, give better results. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir B. Neven-Spence) knows the experiments which have been made in the Orkneys, and if that system could be extended further, it would result in increased catches of herring.
On one or two occasions when we have been debating the herring industry I have rather cut across my Scottish friends because I have criticised the attitude of the Scots in regard to certain aspects of the Scottish elements in the trade. I want to urge that the herring industry must try to get a greater degree of co-operation between those two vital elements. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) took me to task severely on the Second Reading, but he must remember that when the English fleet went north in May they had a very frosty reception indeed. There was no necessity for it, there were plenty of herring there, but because they did not conform to the rigid restrictions laid down by the Scots, they 824 had a disappointing reception. I think the Herring Board could quite readily accommodate the differences between these two vital elements in order to have smoother running of the industry there.
On the Second Reading I expressed my hope that the President of the Board of Trade would be one of the sponsors of the Bill. My reason for doing so has now become more evident, for he announced not long ago in the House that he was hoping to conclude with the Soviet Union an extension of our trade agreements. The House will remember that before the first World War there was a considerable trade with Russia in certain types of herring. The re-opening of the Russian market would do a great deal to stimulate the trade and provide an extended market for our industry.
I want to add a word of warning on the urgency of the question of over-fishing. I was talking recently to a person high up in the fishing industry. He made the disappointing prognostication that our commercial fishing this year from the North Sea would not exceed the tonnage of 1938. That year was almost the nadir of the long run of descending catches after the first World War. If we are already back to that position it is vitally necessary to pursue every possible means to prevent the catching of immature fish.
We shall watch the operation of the Bill with, I am afraid, considerable anxiety. I hope, as does the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) that the Government will not hesitate to bring in further measures if the results of the Bill prove to be as disappointing, as I am sorry to say I am afraid they will be.
§ 11.32 a.m.
§ Mr. D. Marshall
The passage of the Bill through this House is now drawing to a close. During the past year the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) and I have been engaged on several occasions in the House with the question of over-fishing. I share with him a great deal of anxiety regarding the implementation of the intentions of the Bill. During the Committee stage I was worried about how the fishery officers would carry out the intention of Clause 2. I was concerned over the inspection of ships and respects for the rights of masters. I did not know whether the 825 difficulties had been fully recognised. I should like to take this opportunity of saying how much I appreciate the courteous letter I have received from the Parliamentary Secretary, which has given me great comfort. He used these words:To my knowledge there has never been a single complaint on this point, the fishery officers in courtesy, as a matter of practice, first seeking the master and notifying him before boarding his vessel.His letter settles that issue.
I would again draw the Minister's attention to the need for getting other countries to carry out the intentions contained in the Bill. This matter dates back to June, 1947, when I first raised the question of Spain with the Foreign Secretary. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will refer once again to it and say that the Minister will press the Foreign Secretary on this question. Regarding the refining of oil, we suggested during the Committee stage an enlargement to include other fish by the insertion of such a word as "pelagic." The Secretary of State for Scotland then said:We accept the suggestion, however, that we should look into the matter."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee A; 2nd June, 1948, c. 34.]When the Minister opened the Third Reading Debate he made no mention of this. No doubt he has left the question to the Parliamentary Secretary. The Bill is considerably improved by the few Amendments of the Opposition which the Government have accepted, but it might have been improved still further if they had seen fit to accept more of our Amendments.
The House will agree that in any Bill which concerns the fishing industry we must be mindful of exactly what we are setting out to do. We are not only providing extra food which is necessary, or maintaining the fishing fleets and the men who sail in the vessels; we are doing something of enormous importance in maintaining, strengthening and giving every form of help to our fishing industry. We are maintaining our small boat builders and the ports and harbours which are necessary for our security. We are helping to build up in this country—a seafaring nation—the great spirit of seamanship which, if ever the country is in danger, will always come to our rescue. I give the Bill my support.
§ 11.37 a.m.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)
An hon. Member has whispered to me to strike a discordant note in order to make a change in the chorus of praise. I have no intention of doing so because I think the Bill deserves all the commendation it is getting. The broad way in which it has been presented to the House is striking. It is worth noting the large and diverse number of Ministers who support it. It has been presented by the Secretary of State for Scotland, no doubt representing Scottish interests; it is supported by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, no doubt representing English interests, and by the Minister of Food, whose duty it is to feed the public, to look after the distribution of food, to arrange the level of prices, to see that there are fair shares for all and that everybody is well and decently fed. Moreover, it is supported by the two Parliamentary Secretaries, and I would like to say a word of commendation of the speech we have just heard from the Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland. This is a formidable array and indicates the breadth, depth, strength and realism of the views behind the Bill.
Another striking feature was the very useful and informative exposition to which we were treated by the Secretary of State for Scotland during the Second Reading. His speech on that occasion was interesting as a narrative, scientific in analysis and persuasive as an argument commending the Bill. I should like to refer particularly to his statement that this country is limited in its power to use its land but is practically unlimited as regards the advantages to be derived from the sea. Up to the present they have not been sufficiently organised.
The efforts of this Government since they came to power stand in bold contrast to efforts of former Governments. This Bill is a big step forward, although I agree that it does not go quite far enough. The right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) may look back at the manner in which fishing problems have been dealt with in the past. Opportunities have been missed and the interests of fishermen and consumers have been given second place. That is wrong, because we are blessed in these islands by having teeming sources of food at our very doors, easy of access and badly 827 needed by the population. But adequate efforts have not been made in the past to see that those sources were made available.
Government after Government have investigated and made reports and then pigeon holed the reports. The 1929 Labour Government tackled the problem and set up the Economic Advisory Fisheries Council (Fisheries Committee) which reported on the serious conditions in the industry, but that Government fell before it could implement the findings of that Report. The Ramsay Macdonald Government did nothing about it until 1933, when the Sea-Fishing Industry Act was passed, but that carried the matter very little further. In 1934 there was the Herring Fishery Board and in 1938 the Herring Board Report, which even yet has never been adequately implemented. Little real progress was made until 1945, when the present Government introduced the Inshore Fisheries Act, 1946, a small Act designed to give financial assistance to fishermen by way of grants up to £500,000 and loans up to £800,000. That was a step in the right direction but it was disproportionate to the needs of the industry.
The present Bill takes a bigger and better step forward by extending the provisions of the Inshore Fisheries Act and the financial advantages available under that Measure. The aggregate sum which may be made available for grants is doubled, from £500,000 to £1 million and the aggregate sums for loans is more than doubled from £800,000 to £1,800,000. These are more generous benefits than have ever been offered to the fishing community, but the facts show they are not enough. The Secretary of State admitted this on Second Reading when he said:It was intended that this provision should cover the five-year period from December, 1945, to December, 1950. But, it is likely that it will be exhausted in the autumn of this year.This is not as it should be. There should be sufficient finance available to meet all the needs of the industry. The Secretary of State went on:A great deal of advantage has been taken of the assistance available, and up to 1st April the total commitments made for England and Wales and Scotland amounted to 400,000 by way of grant, and 693,000 by way of loan. Applications are still flowing in, and the Fisheries Department have on their books a 828 considerable number of applications from fishermen desiring to acquire ex-naval motor fishing vessels as they are released from time to time by the Admiralty.Available sums have run out quicker than was anticipated because the fishermen have elected to build a higher proportion of the larger boats."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1948; Vol. 450, c. 632.]This shows that the scheme adumbrated in that earlier Bill was on the right lines, that it filled a need and was popular with the fishermen, and should be extended. The present Bill is an attempt to extend some of those benefits, but even this Bill, good as it is, does not go far enough.
Fishermen are a great race of men, fine, hardy communities dotted round our coasts who have assisted this country in time of peace and time of war, as has often been said, but cannot be said too often. It is right that their great industry should be assisted by every means and that ample finance should be placed at their disposal for ships and gear. Their fishing grounds should be conserved and they should be protected from over-fishing and poaching. All this the Bill seeks to do, and for those reasons I give my wholehearted support to this splendid Measure.
§ 11.46 a.m.
§ Mr. Beechman (St. Ives)
As others have indicated, this is a good Bill, but there is such a thing as absolute goodness and relative goodness. This is a relatively good Bill because it takes a necessary and distinct step in the right direction. I hope that in some measure it partakes of absolute goodness because I hope it is part of a real endeavour to establish the fishing industry in our home waters on a sure and solid, yet at the same time adventurous basis—the life of the fisherman is one of great adventure. Sometimes it is said that young people will not go in for fishing, but in my experience that is untrue. Given the right conditions, they wish to fish and it is very important for the character and safety of our country that they should be encouraged.
They are to have further facilities for having boats. I hope that will be combined with education in the use of boats and gear. I also hope there will be education for the girls in the cooking of fish and for men as well, because it is a good thing in these days that men 829 should know how to cook fish. I wish to impress on the Government that the facilities for procuring boats by way of grant or loan should be made wider than in the past. We may be quite wrong in Cornwall and England, but we have felt that Scotland has had a larger chance in this matter.
It is right that this country should set an example to the world in seeing that immature fish are not caught. At the same time, it would be most unfair to the fishermen if we were to force them to use nets on limited scales such as do not apply to others, and if they were forbidden to catch fish which others were catching. There are two points which must be made clear. First, fishermen should not be forced to use a new type of mesh until they are financially in a position to buy them, and the nets are available; secondly, if the fishermen are compelled to use a new type of net they must have compensation in respect of the loss which they will incur.
We have heard a great deal during the passage of this Bill about what other countries are doing and what they are not doing. I and others have raised the question of Spain. We have had a little encouragement from the Government in regard to our hopes that other countries may came in, but it will greatly assist in the working of this Measure if the fishermen, the country generally, and this House can be informed from time to time—and I hope the time will be very soon—that other countries have, in fact, come in. There is one country in particular which I should like to see come in—my right hon. Friend did refer to the Tower of Babel—and that, once again, is Scotland. In this Bill great emphasis is laid on the herring. We all have a great regard for the herring.
§ Mr. Beechman
Especially the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby). But, after all that has been said it really is sad to find that under this Bill experiments in the production of oil are to be confined to the herring. To my mind that is quite ridiculous. A splendid suggestion was made by the right hon. and gallant Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel Elliot) that the 830 word "seafish" should be substituted for the word "herring"; and the more scholarly word "pelagic" has been suggested. Certainly, the Bill as it now stands unduly restricts most valuable experiments that could be made, not only in the production of oil, but in the use of pilchards and other fish in many other ways. Having said all that, I wish to give this Bill a favourable wind.
§ 11.53 a.m.
§ Mr. Duthie (Banff)
The ground has been covered so thoroughly in the debating of this Bill that there is little now that I can say. However, the Bill does contain some provisions which I should like to underline. My first point was mentioned by the hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), that in the interests of our fishermen it is absolutely vital for any regulations applied to British fishing vessels to apply as strictly to foreign vessels fishing side by side with our vessels round our own coasts.
There is a weakness in this Bill in that the powers of the Herring Board have not been sufficiently defined. It is true that in Clause 5 a certain range of activities of the Herring Board is set out; but I think it would have been better, and would have made for more cohesion, had the Herring Board been given a more definite standing. As is well known, in the herring industry there are all kinds of wrangling; there never has been unanimity between curers, kipperers, fishermen and fish salesmen; they have always been at each others' throats, and more or less inimical to each other. A strong Herring Board with strong powers could have removed all those causes of disquiet, and the wrangling, and made for the betterment of the industry.
In my view it is absolutely vital, in the interests of the herring industry, that as quickly as possible schemes similar to the Lerwick scheme shall be introduced at all the herring ports. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans) touched upon that most glaring and unfair anomaly whereby two vessels may arrive and land catches on the same day, one a few hours after the other, but whereas the first may receive something like 90s. per cran the second will receive only 35s. per cran. That disparity in price has been the primary cause, if not the sole cause, of all the difficulties and disquiets 831 in the herring industry since the end of the war. The Lerwick scheme, which has been such an undoubted success, is to my mind the primary salvation of the herring industry, because under it no matter how many crans are landed on a given day, or even in a given period in a given season, they are disposed of by the Herring Board to the kipperers, the curers, the klondikers, freshers and so on; a flat rate is paid for the herring during the season, but a balance sheet is struck at the end of the season, and whatever profit has been made over and above the flat rate paid for the herring goes to the fishermen on a cran basis as a bonus. No fisherman will quarrel with that. If we can have that scheme at our East Englian ports and at the big Scottish herring ports an almost Utopian age will be born for the herring industry.
With regard to over-fishing, I must reiterate what I have said on previous occasions, that we must not place too much faith in the regulations of any size of mesh preventing over-fishing. With a net under strain the mesh varies in size. This Bill lays down powers to conduct all kinds of research, and we must have research into what is happening to the plankton. Something has gone wrong with the feeding of herring on the Aberdeenshire fishing ground this summer. What has happened? Is it something to do with the Gulf Stream? Has a layer of cold water come between the warmer water at the top and the water below? Is that preventing the plankton from rising? We should like to know. In direct ratio to the success that we have in answering those questions the herring industry will be made all the surer.
We must also have research into methods of fishing. Are the trawling methods, the seine net methods, too destructive of the food at the bottom of the sea? Again, we do not know. It must be borne in mind that where line fishing is carried out there is no danger of over-fishing. A fleet of lines may be anything up to six miles long, with hooks, at perhaps yard intervals; if the fishermen are after big fish they have a big hook; if they are after haddock, they have a haddock hook. So long as the hook is selected, and so long as line fishing is employed, there cannot possibly be over-fishing, and immature fish cannot 832 possibly be caught. There is also the question of vermin in the sea which do much more destruction than anything else. For instance, dogfish do much more destruction to a fishing bed than the trawlers of other countries with sea boards on the North Sea fishing intensively for months.
I have one other point, which I hope is not out of Order. We welcome this increase in the grants and loans to fishermen, but the Government, or the Department responsible for working this Bill, must ensure that the prices of gear and vessels are kept within bounds, otherwise we are asking fishermen to invest their all in something which may prove to be a millstone round their necks. I welcome this Bill very much; I do not think it is the last word we shall hear in the development of our white fish and herring industry, but it is a step in the right direction, and as such I welcome it most heartily.
§ 12 noon.
§ Squadron-Leader Kinghorn (Great Yarmouth)
; We welcome this Bill most heartily. It is another stage in the good progress which this Government have made since the end of the war in dealing with the fishing industry. We are not satisfied. We never shall be satisfied. A fisherman is never satisfied. But we hope that this Bill is going to help the industry over the next few years and bring about better order than we had in the years gone by.
What are we after in relation to the herring industry when we introduce this Bill? We are attempting to get stability. We should like to be certain that when the boats go out, they can go straight to a certain place and know that they will get their catch; then come back to harbour and get a certain definite price and know there will be no wastage or deterioration of the fish, but that it will automatically go through improved channels to the housewife in the kitchen, or to the factory where it can be processed in so many different ways. That stability obviously must start with the shoals, by knowing precisely where the herring are in the sea. The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the unpredictability of this industry. We can never know that the fish will be there. In fact, this huge industry is on exactly the same basis as 833 the little boy who goes fishing in a pond and hopes that there will be a catch today. He may fish for days and not get anything.
In these modern and scientific days we ought to have made some progress by research, to which I am glad the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) made reference, to give some more definite assurance that when the boats go out they will be able to go straight to their quarry. In the Second Reading Debate I called attention to the successful experiments which the Norwegians had made in which, by the use of a scientific echo sounding apparatus, their boats went straight to the shoals. In 11 hours, in one night, which is actually less than 11 hours fishing, they caught a thousand cran. Our prize winning drifter from East Anglia, after slogging away for 11 hours, had only 253 cran, and it was the champion boat. It seems to me that the Norwegians are on a good wicket. It is quite possible that they are using apparatus produced in this country.
I hope that, under the increasing powers given to the Herring Industry Board by this Bill, every effort will be made to see, if this is not a solution to the problem of stability, that at least we can take in some more scientists, use more of the money at the disposal of the Board and look in every direction to get that stability which, after it is obtained for the fisherman, will extend to the manufacturer, the housewife and everybody concerned.
We are giving greater powers to the Herring Industry Board to rule the industry, and in so ruling, perhaps sometimes in a sharp way, it may at times tread on peoples' corns. There are certain little traditions still kept up in the industry, such as the coloured kipper. About a year ago I went round the kippering shed and was shown a new method they had of taking the bone out and then kippering the fish. In order to help to produce a nice-looking kipper for the housewife they steamed it in beetroot juice. They were dyeing the kipper. A month or so ago the Minister of Agriculture assured us that it is illegal in the Isle of Man to dye a kipper. The kipper must get its proper colour from being properly cured. Kipperers in the industry would be only too keen if that regulation from the Isle of Man were introduced here. 834 I hope we shall follow the Isle of Man in that respect.
I hope that notice was taken of the protest in the Second Reading Debate about English influence in the herring industry and that more regard will be taken of Englishmen who go fishing from Berwick down to Yarmouth and Lowestoft. I hope that there will not be the grumbling, as in years gone by, or that every time there is trouble the Englishmen have to come on bended knee to the Scotsmen.
I have received a letter complaining about the price of coal in East Anglia, which is a long way from the coalfields. Now that we have a nationalised coal industry we may get somewhere near uniform rates for bunkering for our fishing fleet, just as we have general railway rates throughout the country. This morning I have been informed that the prices for bunkers at Yarmouth are from 73s. 6d. to 80s. per ton. The man who wrote to me also bunkers at North Shields, where the price is from 50s. 6d. to 56s. per ton. His letter continues:Some of our trawlers bunker 140 tons each fishing trip, so, allowing for bunkering this quantity at the cheapest Yarmouth price, it means an expense of £122 10s. per trip more than a vessel bunkering the same quantity at the dearest bunker price at ShieldsWith their increased powers, and bearing in mind the great recognition being paid to other parts of the industry, the Board should look into this matter and see that fishing from Yarmouth is not made dearer because we are so much further away from the coalfields than North Shields.
If we are to obtain stability, and if modern scientific methods are to assure a constant supply of herring, especially during the definite seasons, we should rebuild that trade with the Continent of Europe which brought so much wealth and distinction to my own constituency in the years before 1914. That does depend on something definite coming out of the Russian agreement. We have heard that the President of the Board of Trade is to reopen his discussions with the Russians. He will go with the best wishes and hopes of the herring industry. We hope that there will be a supply of our cured herring going to the Russians under a new agreement, and that they are already getting practice in the Board of Trade for those bouts they will have to have with the 835 Russians in order to get those agreements. We wish them well in their efforts.
§ 12.9 p.m.
§ Mr. Boothby (Aberdeen and Kincardine, Eastern)
I would like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth (Squadron - Leader Kinghorn) in getting away with his bunkering. I thought he was rather near the mark at one moment, but I am glad that he made it. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland was not here to hear the striking tribute paid to him by the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) who referred to his fortitude, depth, courage, powers of analysis, persuasive powers, and scientific attainments. I have always had a great respect for the Secretary of. State for Scotland, but I think he missed something in not hearing all those things said about him. If he really combines all these qualities, we certainly have an exceptional Secretary of State. I do not think that he missed quite so much by not hearing the spirited but highly inaccurate résumé of the history of the fishing industry over the last 30 years which the hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen gave; but I hope that the Under-Secretary will advise him to read that portion of the speech of the hon. and learned Member relating to his personal characteristics, which can only give him pleasure.
So far as the herring industry is concerned, my hon. Friends on this side of the House and myself have every reason to feel very pleased today. The Bill gives effect to proposals which as my hon. Friend the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland knows, we submitted to the Minister of Food over a year ago. Broadly, the recommendations and suggestions we made upon that occasion have been accepted in this Bill which, as I said on Second Reading, I regard as something in the nature of a coping stone to all the legislation that we have passed affecting the fishing industry since the 1914–18 war. Perhaps the most valuable thing about the Bill is the doing away with multiple control, that joint control exercised by the Department of Fisheries in Edinburgh, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, the Ministry of Food, and the Herring Board, sometimes working at cross-purposes.
836 It now concentrates wide powers of direction, especially in so far as the making of schemes is concerned, in the Herring Industry Board. They are very wide powers, and I think it is right that they should be. Equally, I think it is right not to introduce any over-all compulsory powers over the fishermen, because you cannot make any fisherman do what he does not want to do. You must persuade him that it is a good thing for him, the country, and the industry to do something; and then he will do it better than anybody else. Therefore, I do not quite agree with the hon. Member who has suggested that powers of compulsion should have been taken, over individuals working in the industry. It is better to do what must be done in that field by securing their co-operation. The Board will have to feel its way, in a rather unexplored field, in the light of experience.
If this Bill is to be the success that we should all like it to be, three things are absolutely essential. I am speaking only in regard to the herring industry. I agree with everything that has been said about international co-operation in the white fish industry. The first essential is effective co-operation between the Board and every section of the industry, particularly the fishermen. I agree with what was said by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) who was supported by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans). I do not believe that we shall ever get the herring fishermen to fish flat out, which is what they ought to do, because we cannot overfish herring, until we get a very great extension of what has been described as the Lerwick scheme.
Until we give them an average price for all the herring they can catch, which will assure them of a good remuneration with enough to cover the costs of production, which are very high and likely to increase, and which will really make it worth their while to go out and catch to capacity whenever the herring are on the ground, without any restrictions on nets or on fishing, I do not think that we shall succeed. I believe that that is the ultimate goal. I hope that the time is not very far distant when the Board, under this Bill, will have brought in a number of schemes which will give to the fishermen an average and remunerative price, so that they will not be able to say 837 any longer, "Why should we go and fish for herring to be turned into oil at 30s, a cran? It is not worth our while if you lower the price to that level." Hitherto they have had a great argument on their side. The average price is the answer. Hon. Members who know anything about the industry are in complete agreement on this point; and I know that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland agrees with it.
The second essential is the active support of the Herring Board by the Board of Trade. It is really very important that the Board of Trade should give all the authority and weight of His Majesty's Government to the Herring Board in its efforts to expand our foreign markets. The hon. and gallant Member for Great Yarmouth said with truth that it would be a tremendous thing for this industry if we could reopen the Russian market, which has been effectively closed to us since 1924. Negotiations are beginning for a new trade agreement with Russia. It is not only a case of the Russian market. There are many countries behind the so-called iron curtain with whom I think, and believe, and hope that we shall have to negotiate direct trade agreements, and which are in themselves great markets for cured herrings. Poland is one, Roumania is another, and Hungary is a third. All the additional land in Eastern Germany which Poland has now acquired is another. It was the great traditional Baltic market for herring. All could be expanded; and they can only be expanded by direct negotiations with those countries through the Board of Trade. I know that the President of the Board of Trade has this in mind; but it is absolutely essential if this Bill is to be a success.
I would add this other point, which is that there is a great market for cured herrings in the Mediterranean as well. I may mention, in parenthesis, that the Greeks have not been taking the herring recently which they used to take, and which they ought to take now. Some were sent there the other day. There were the usual difficulties over import licences, and it was only after great efforts that we got them released to cold store. If that had not been done they would have been completely ruined in three or four weeks. Here is another field for very active work on the part of the Board of Trade.
My final point is that already raised by the hon. Member for Banff. The future 838 of this industry depends upon science more than any other single factor, as applied first to the movement of the shoals, to the position of herrings in the North Sea—why they come; why they go; and why sometimes they are there and cannot be caught because they are at the wrong depth. That is one aspect of immense importance. The other aspect, which is of immense potential importance, is the whole processing side; above all the process of quick freezing, which, if it is really carried to a commercial point, can revolutionise the whole industry. The possibilities ahead are immense. This Bill gives the Board the chance, if it is backed up by the industry and the Government, of putting the great herring fishing industry, in which I am deeply interested, upon a new basis altogether.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
A remarkable degree of co-operation and unanimity has been shown in our consideration of this Bill. I attribute that largely to the fact that the lawyers have not taken a morbid interest in the Bill, either on the Floor of the House or upstairs. The passage of the Bill has been made easy because Members of the Opposition have forgotten their ideological differences. We have heard the word "co-operation" mentioned more often in this Debate than I have ever before heard it mentioned in this House. The number of times that the word has been mentioned enthusiastically by the Opposition, almost makes me think that Lord Beaver-brook, when he reads the report of this Debate, may want to ask Lord Woolton for his money back from the fund.
Clause 4 deals with the financial assistance to fishermen and gives power to make loans to fishermen's co-operative societies. I do not think that the Clause goes far enough. The generosity of the sum mentioned is more apparent than real. We are told that £100,000 is to be given to the herring industry to help fishermen to co-operate in buying boats and gear. How far does that get us? Last January I spent a week with the fishing fleet on the West coast in a new boat. This new boat, in which there was a crew of eight, had been bought for £5,000 complete with engine. The total grant, if it is desired to provide boats on a co-operative basis, is £100,000. That would provide only 20 boats for the whole of the 839 fishing industry. There is a limitation in the Clause that one co-operative society of fishermen can receive only a maximum of £1,000. That rules out altogether the purchase of boats. With the present high price of fishermen's gear and tackle, it is difficult to see how a great deal of success can result from these grants unless they are put on a much more generous basis.
I do not agree with those hon. Members who have suggested that Scotland, in some way or another, is being put in a privileged position so far as the herring industry is concerned. It certainly is not true of the West coast of Scotland, where we need far more financial assistance to encourage the herring fishermen to come to the harbours and land their fish. There is no sign of super-generosity to Scotland in the way its harbours have been treated, especially those on the West coast, when we know that so many harbours are finding very great difficulty in getting dredgers. When we see very large sums being expended in other parts of the country and the world, we do not think there is very much reason for the assertion that Scotland has been treated super-generously in encouragement for the herring industry. When I read, for example, as I read this week, that £25 million has been sunk in a base at Singapore during the last 20 years or so, and when we think of what is needed to encourage the fishermen on the West coast of Scotland, I can only marvel that we have been so short-sighted as to spend money in all parts of the world instead of investing it in our own home industry.
This week, Sir John Boyd Orr called attention to the fact that we are going to be faced with a great world food shortage during the next decade or so, and this Bill will be judged against that background. It certainly does a great deal to foster research and to help the organisation of marketing, both at home and abroad, but I hope that the Under-Secretary for Scotland will convey to the Herring Board the necessity not only of organising production, but of co-operating with the Food Ministry in organising new methods of marketing. I have seen fish landed at the port of Ayr being brought down to Billingsgate in London when there was an absolute scarcity in 840 the West of Scotland and in the industrial area from which the fishermen come.
I should like to make a suggestion which perhaps the Under-Secretary will pass on, and it is that something on the same lines as the activities of the Milk Marketing Board might be done by the Herring Board, to organise the distribution of herring to the schools. The farmers know that the milk distribution scheme has been very successful in helping to give them a stable market for milk, and it might be a good idea if a similar scheme for herring were extended to the schools so that the children could receive from the fish the nourishing fat which is now absent owing to the shortage of meat. I welcome this Bill, which I hope will be followed by a bigger Bill, and I urge the Secretary of State to impress upon the Treasury, if he has any influence with the Treasury, the need to make these grants to the herring industry as generous as possible in order to assist a vital food-producing industry of this country.
§ 12.26 p.m.
§ Sir David Robertson (Streatham)
Like all other hon. Members who have spoken, I welcome this Bill, and the only fault I have to find with it is that it does not go far enough. The hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) made a party speech attributing neglect to successive Governments of the past in failing to bring in legislation on the lines of this Bill. As an old member of this trade, I should like to tell the House that one of the greatest obstacles to legislation in past years has been the failure to get the trade itself to agree. Many attempts were made over a long period of years to get this fishing industry to talk with one voice, or something like one voice. I am very sorry to say that that result was not achieved, and that that was the main obstacle to the introduction of legislation to prevent over-fishing.
There was the historic case, many years ago, when Hull and Grimsby trawler-owners, after long negotiations, got as far as the House of Lords, when one of the parties—I think it was the Grimsby delegation—"ratted" at that point. They were trying even then, to stop over-fishing and the marketing of immature fish, but, in the period from the commencement of the negotiations until the deputation reached the House of Lords, 841 the ingenuity of man had found a means of marketing these immature fish, and, because they were saleable, the industry took the short-term view of taking this easy money and allowed the destruction of the North Sea fisheries to go on until they got into the dreadful state in which they are today. I am told that very few North Sea trawlers are operating at a profit today.
One of the most vital matters in connection with this Bill is the preservation of the North Sea. Trawling is a comparatively recent creation, but the seas have been there for many centuries. It is good to realise that, when Britain was fighting for its existence in the war, the Government of that day, representing all he parties in this House, were able to plan and prepare for the Convention of 1946, and this Bill, of course, is the means if putting our own house in order. It outs Britain's agreement into a legal form, and I understand that we have taken the lead in this matter and that no other nation which was a party to the Convention has so far brought forward any legislation at all.
I feel that our fishermen have shown great forbearance in accepting the mesh restrictions. I think they gladly accept the licensing restrictions, and I agree with previous speakers who have said that what is right for our fishermen must be right for all. I think I know the problems which the Government will have to face in dealing with foreign nations. I met many foreign nationals during the years in which I was in the industry, and I found them very decent human beings as a whole. I think they are likely to raise these points. One is the shortage of food in their own countries, involving the question why they should restrict their fishing in those circumstances; and the second is the cupidity of the fishermen themselves, who, like the Grimsby men I have referred to, may take the short-term view of cashing in today instead of preserving this vital heritage for the future. These are problems that will have to be faced, and I hope the Government will take this industry into their confidence and tell them what is happening.
We have sent Parliamentary delegations abroad before, and, probably, if a delegation of this kind could be sent, it would help the work of the Government in bringing about agreement with other nations, 842 because time is not on our side. The history of fishing restrictions throughout the world shows that they were passed too late and only when economic disaster made them inevitable, and I hope that that will not come to pass with this Bill. We have lost two years already, and if we lose another two years, we might have more than half our North Sea trawlers tied up. I remember the years in the late twenties and early thirties, when a large number of North Sea trawlers was tied up and rusting, derelict at the ports of Grimsby, Aberdeen and at other places, as well as at Continental ports like Bremerhaven, Ymuiden, and Wesermunde. The North Sea is common to us all, and I hope that some agreement may be made with other countries so as to help the Government's actions in trying to safeguard this common heritage.
I feel very doubtful about the restricted areas scheduled under this Bill, and the way in which the boundaries have been limited, because the problem which exists inside these areas also exists over the border—in the seas off Iceland, Bear Island and the White Sea, in which large fleets of British and Icelandic trawlers are operating day and night and over-fishing. That situation should be tackled. I believe that enlightened trawler owners with large capital investments in craft and shore plants are bound to see the ruin that lies ahead, and their resistance, if any, would be speedily overcome. I believe the Government will have a much easier passage in that regard than they will in the North Sea negotiations which they are carrying out with all the other nations.
Before I pass to the herring side of this Bill, may I be permitted to refer to an unfortunate mistake which occurred in the HANSARD Report of the Second Reading Debate? It records an intervention by me while the hon. and gallant Member for East Hull (Commander Pursey) was speaking. I had made proposals in my speech for improving this industry, and he very naturally asked why I had not done these things in the years when I was employed in the industry. I gave an explanation, and I am quoted as having said, "I am still its managing director." I did not use those words. When I discovered the error on the morning following the Debate, I wrote to the Editor of HANSARD so that the correction could be 843 made in the bound volume which is the permanent record of Debates. I feel obliged to refer to the matter now, because an old and esteemed colleague of mine is the managing director of the company to which I was referring, and it is desirable that the correction should obtain the same publicity as the error.
Opinions have been expressed that there is an abundant supply of herring in the seas. I have some doubts on that score. I have not enough knowledge to dogmatise on it, but I remember very well the days when there was no herring trawling in the seas at all, and I cannot recall that there were the ever-recurring famines which we seem to have run into in more recent years since trawling has been resorted to. The traditional method of catching herring is by drift net when the fish are on or close to the surface of the sea. I have a very strong conviction that when they are on the bottom carrying out nature's function of reproduction and spawning they should not be taken by the trawlers. Last week-end the newspapers carried reports of the losses which the great Fraserburgh and Peter-head fishing fleets are now sustaining; that is the greatest of all the Scottish fishing grounds. The "Fish Trades Gazette" last week also carried a similar story.
All the measures which this Bill envisages will be frustrated if the shortage of herring persists. The situation has not become so serious as it has in the case of white fish, but I do urge the Government to set up an inquiry now. The suggestion made by my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) in regard to plankton, is, I am sure, very desirable, but it is even more desirable that trawling for herring by steam trawlers should be prohibited. It is most significant that these Fraserburgh and Peterhead herring men are now going through a bad time. The trawling that is done by the Aberdeen, Hull and Grimsby trawler owners takes place in grounds just off Buchan Ness—grounds in which I imagine the Fraser-burgh and Peterhead herrings normally spawn. I urge the Minister to give that matter his attention.
If, by any chance, the inquiry cannot produce conclusive evidence, I hope the Minister will act on suspicion because the trawler owner can well afford to eliminate 844 from his repertory of fishing operations that little bit which concerns the trawling of herring. It is only a seasonal matter for him, and a very short seasonal one at that. When I heard the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) speaking a few moments ago, I recalled the days when we had no shortages at all in the Clyde and Loch Fyne. But since the Fleetwood trawlers started to trawl on the bottom and found where the herrings spawned, somewhere between the Isle of Man, the North Irish coast and the South of Scotland, we ran into these periodic shortages.
The other point I wish to make concerns this question of oil conversion. I referred to it at some length in my Second Reading speech, and I do not intend to cover the ground again, even if I were permitted to do so, but I have very considerable doubts about the advisability of turning this magnificent human food—and I regard herring as one of the finest of all human foods—into oil on a large scale. By all means let us carry out the Lerwick experiment, but let us soft pedal it as far as oil is concerned, because it seems to me to be wholly wrong that in a small island like ours, with a dense population, we should take this fine food which nature makes ready for use, and crush it for margarine.
Let us look at the financial side. The refiners pay 8s. 6d. a cran. The controlled price of herrings is 88s. 8d. a cran. The refiners pay one-tenth of the controlled price. That seems an impossible situation. The Government realise that it is an impossible situation, and the Financial Secretary to the Treasury and the Chancellor of the Exchequer find another £1 at the expense of the taxpayer to give to the fishermen, to bring the 8s. 6d. up to about 30s. to sweeten the fishermen, because they would never accept 8s. 6d. It is unfair not only to the fishermen but to the taxpayers, and I think it is unfair most of all to the people of this country who should have the herring in their natural form as human food.
It cannot be beyond the wit and ingenuity of man in this little country of ours, with 46 million people, to market every herring that is landed. I do not say that we should market it every day at times of intense glut. We cannot expect the housewives of Great Britain suddenly 845 to change their habits just because there happens to be a huge catch at Fraserburgh or Peterhead or Lerwick or Yarmouth or anywhere else, but in failing to take care of such a surplus and preserve it we are at fault. Australia and New Zealand have done it for ages; so has Argentina. They freeze their surpluses. They have no home market capable of taking surpluses of bacon, lard, meat or butter. They freeze and store and export to us and others. Yet here we are timidly fumbling along with a toy plant at Lerwick capable of dealing with a few hundred tons a year instead of doing it in a majestic fashion as I described in my Second Reading speech.
I do not wish to cover that ground again, but I feel strongly that in Great Britain we have a surplus of herring from time to time in the months between May and November, while between November and May we have practically no herrings at all. What usually happens, of course, is that we allow the herring to remain in the sea and tie up the boats. In bygone days we were able to sell them to Russia and the other Baltic countries. I hope those days will come back, but I have no more than a faint hope. Those countries are behind the iron curtain, and are not acting in a way which inspires anyone in this country or in this House with confidence. Let us hope there will be a change of front in those countries, but we shall be deluding ourselves, the people we represent and the fishing industry, if we say that there is likely to be a market there, as there was in bygone days, to take our surplus.
I urge the Government to encourage the Herring Board in the praiseworthy efforts which they are making to freeze herrings. I hope, too, that private enterprise will take a hand, create the necessary freezing facilities and also pay fishermen the day-to-day price. If that is done, I think we shall get the herring we require, and I am certain that we shall give satisfaction to the fishermen.
§ 12.39 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
In view of the suspicious glances which were cast in my direction, I must inform the House that I was not the Member who tried to incite the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) to 846 commit a public disorder. I do not want to give away the Member who did so, but it is notorious that an Irishman always likes a fight.
In this Bill we are trying, in a timid way, to approach this question of the fishing industry. It has been said by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) that there should be a strong Herring Board, and I agree; but that means the power of direction and control. It is peculiar that Members on the other side are always against control, but when it comes to particular industries, and they are faced with the fact that controls are essential, they are most earnestly in support of them.
Clause 4 deals with co-operation, but sufficient is not being done, and sufficient money is not being provided to encourage the development of co-operation. Co-operation is a very essential feature in the development of this industry. Clause 5 deals with markets. The key to the whole question of the fishing industry is marketing and prices. I remember, in the years between the wars, that we had the most despairing appeals from Buckie, Aberdeen and Peterhead. During that period the fishing industry practically went out of existence in the Forth, particularly in the area of my own constituency. Buckie, Peterhead and Aberdeen were sending despairing appeals to Members of this House inviting them to come and discuss with them the terrible plight of the fishing industry.
I remember during the war, when I used to spend a week or so in the Summer at Tarbert, where the finest herring come from, that night after night, huge motor lorries would come rolling in about midnight, and when the herring came in the morning they were loaded on to the lorries and sent over the mountains to Glasgow or Manchester, and one could not buy a herring in Tarbert. That is what I call the essence of chaos. At one period there are no markets, and at another period one cannot buy the fish. Today that situation is continuing up and down—in some cases it is not possible to get rid of the fish and in other cases people cannot get fish at all. In my own home area it is sometimes very difficult to get fish.
This is a big problem. The problem which has to be tackled by the Herring Board is markets and prices, so that we 847 can end this jump in prices at one time and prices down to zero at another time. We must regularise as far as possible prices and markets. That means co-operation, not only in the sense of the fishermen co-operating, but co-operation between the fishermen, the markets and the community. There has to be the whole process of co-operation. Then there has to be international agreement, which will help to provide a wider market. Much has been said about that today.
I say that the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) made a very bad point when he introduced the subject of the Tower of Babel. He will find if he reads the story again that people there were co-operating, understanding one another and striving to get from the depths to the heights, when the ruling class stepped in, confused their tongues, and set them against one another in order that they should not get from the depths to the heights. Today, we have the same process going on. A confusion of tongues is being created between the people of this country and the people of Eastern Europe. Who is responsible for it? Not the friends of the fishermen, but the enemies of the fishermen. Let us have an end to that. This Bill is a small stone,—not a big stone, not a keystone—in the structure which will eventually be built up towards a better way of things, and, in so far as it does that, we give it a welcome. I believe that it can help the fishing industry if there is co-ordination and real financial help.
§ 12.45 p.m.
§ Major McCallum (Argyll)
I agree with something which was said by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher). I know of his interest in the West Coast, and he struck a very sympathetic note in my own heart when he referred to the difficulty of buying herring locally when they were being landed in the West Coast ports and carried away to the big markets of Scotland and England. I hope, with him, that the Herring Board, with the new powers given by the Bill, will put their minds to solving this question of local distribution round about the herring fishing ports of the West Coast, and all the fishing ports of Scotland. I have said many a time in this House that it is scandalous that within 10 miles of the spot where the fish are landed—within 848 500 yards in Oban—one cannot buy them. They are streaming away by lorry loads and train loads to the markets of the South. Speaking for the West Coast fishermen, I have never found them to be very silent when anything is wrong. As I have not heard one chirp from them about this Bill, I presume that their non-vocality means their agreement to it.
There are one or two points with regard to the Herring Industry Board to which I would like to refer very quickly. I am sure that the increased powers to be granted to the Board are very much welcomed by the fishing industry all over Scotland. As a member of the Highlands and Islands Advisory Panel, I was on a tour a month or two ago in the Orkneys and Shetlands, and I had the valuable opportunity of visiting the Lerwick processing factory. I think that it should be suggested to the Board that something of that sort might be installed on the West Coast.
An hon. Member said that from November to May there is no herring fishing on the East Coast, but on the West Coast herring fishing goes on for most of the year. It is completely different in that respect from that of the East Coast fishing. There are times in the Summer when glut occurs, and I feel that there might be some processing of the oil, or, even better, a quick-freezing process. If we could have in the West Coast ports, plants for quick-freezing when glut occurs the Herring Board would be doing even more to help the industry in the West Islands than they have been able to do so far. I give full credit for what has been done in Stornoway. The Herring Board have not only paid attention to herring fishing there from the technical point of view of fishing, but also from the point of view of the harbour. I would welcome something of that sort further South.
Finally, I wish to draw attention again to the question of research and the finding of some means of developing the marketing of the herring on the West Coast, at times when big catches come in. That is the time when herring will not stand travelling very far. They could be sold in the neighbouring areas, but, as they cannot be distributed in those areas, they go bad on the way to the markets of the South. I welcome this Bill, but perhaps the Herring Industry Board in continuing to give attention to the North and East Coast could also give some more attention to West Coast problems.
§ 12.50 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
This is the latest of a series of constructive efforts for bettering the organisation of the fishing industry. These constructive efforts have been going on for at least 15 years in this House. The hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) was quite wrong in suggesting that this is a new idea. When I came to the House 15 years ago, one of the first opportunities offered to me—and I was very proud to take it—was to move a Motion calling attention to the position of the fishing industry. While I do not claim any particular merits for what happened afterwards, it is a fact that following that Debate a whole series of measures were taken in this House by general agreement. Those who were here at that time will remember that we had one committee of inquiry after another, and that the White Fish Commission and the Herring Fishing Board were set up.
All this was going on before the war started, and if war had not broken out I am convinced that we should have seen great developments in the industry in the course of the next year or two. At that time negotiations had reached an advanced stage in regard to measures against over-fishing, improvement of boats, provision of gear and processing. Together with my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson) and others I was urging precisely the same method of processing as is being suggested today 10 or 15 years ago.
I am very pleased that we have started this process again, and I am very glad that the Government have introduced this Measure, but let us recognise that this is not the action of one set of people, but that many hands have taken a part in the work, and that many hands also will be required to continue the work in the future. Looking back on the pre-war discussions we had on the fishing industry and comparing the actions of Government Departments at that time and now, I think I detect a subtle difference in approach as compared with those days. Before the war we almost felt the presence of the fisherman when we were discussing this industry. We were so very much concerned with the man, his family, his home and his surroundings, and all our Debates centred on the romantic figure whose presence it seemed was with us in the House.
850 Nowadays, I think, there has been a change. We seem to have got away from the man, his home and family, and instead I detect a hectoring note: we are inclined now to lecture the fishermen and order him about. I know that progress has to be made in organisation, and I agree with the main provisions of this Bill, but I ask the House and the nation never to forget that this great industry is based on a community of exceedingly individualistic men and women, and that unless these men, their wives, bairns and homes are constantly in our minds, we shall fail in all our efforts. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby), the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) and others speak in this House with great eloquence for large fishing communities, which are, of course, exceedingly important, but my hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman), the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) and myself speak not for these great organised bodies but for the small communities. In my constituency there are four little fishing communities with no more than a few hundred fishermen in each, and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Ives speaks on behalf of even smaller communities.
Unless our efforts are directed towards looking after these small communities of fishermen, nothing will be worth while. This is not just a matter of fishing, organisation and planning, but is a matter which concerns the people and involves the character of the country. The hundreds of little fishing hamlets scattered around our coast are the very essence of the life and character of the British nation, and it is these small communities which are apt to be neglected. The hon. Member for Streatham speaks with great knowledge and sense about the depredations of trawlers, but why is it that these smaller fishing communities today are so often in trouble? It is because the great organisations in the industry have come in with their trawlers and swept up the fish from these local waters, which has not done anyone any good. They have cleaned these waters out, and these small communities have nowhere to fish locally but have to go far away from their villages, and everyone is in trouble.
Unless the Government take into account, more than they have done up to the present, the individuals in this great 851 industry, their homes, families and social surroundings, and these small isolated communities which have bred and will continue to breed great men for our country, we shall fail in our efforts. I well remember going up to Ross-shire before the war and visiting a tiny clachan. I called upon a fisherwoman there who for the time being was gathering in the hay. She told me that her son was on the "Discovery" at the South Pole, but that he was having some trouble with his legs which had been frozen. She told me he was coming back and that her second son was going out to take his place. That is typical of these tiny villages, and it is an example of the immense contribution these people have made to the British race and name throughout the world. I am standing here as a representative of these small communities and demanding justice for them.
§ 12.58 p.m.
§ Mr. John Beattie (Belfast, West)
After listening to the very clear statement which was made on behalf of the Government and to the variety of speeches which have come from both sides of the House, I am wondering what part I have to play in this Debate. I say that because I come from an area known as the Six Counties of Northern Ireland. An island generally has a prosperous fishing industry, and I want to know what part we are to play under this Measure. I know it is said that Clauses 3 and 4 of this Bill shall extend to Northern Ireland and the provisions of Section 15 (3) and (4) of the Herring Industry Act, 1935, shall also apply. We have a very prosperous fishing industry, and I do not know whether any Member has tasted an Ardglass herring. Our fishing industry feeds part of the North-East Coast. We ship our fish across over night from the Larne side of Ireland, and we re-ship part of the fish from the North of Scotland.
I want to know how we are to protect our industry if the size of the mesh of the net is changed? Eire has a fishing industry, too, but the Bill does not apply to that country. Have we made no agreement with Eire that she should conform to the conditions laid down under this Bill? We have to live by the waters surrounding Ireland, and the position will be difficult for Northern Ireland fishermen if they have to change the size of their nets and Eire fishermen continue 852 to fish with whatever size net is best suited to their requirements.
What financial aid shall we get under this Bill for the Lough Neagh fishermen? A large fishing industry is operated in Lough Neagh, and I want to know whether the provisions of the Bill will apply to the fishermen there? I ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland to remember that we have in the City of Belfast one of the finest net making industries anywhere. If there is to be reorganisation I hope recommendations will come from this House that Belfast shall have an equal opportunity, with others, of providing the more up to date nets which are required for fishermen throughout the British Isles. When this Bill becomes law I hope it will fulfil all expectations.
§ 1.4 p.m.
§ Sir Basil Neven-Spence (Orkney and Shetland)
I am glad that the voice of Northern Ireland has been heard in this Debate, and I hope that the hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. J. Beattie) will get a satisfactory answer to the points he has raised. Far be it from me to strike a discordant note in a Debate which can most aptly be described as a chorus of harmonious blacksmiths; nevertheless, I am sure the Minister will not take it amiss if I offer a little mild criticism. I do so in no unfriendly spirit because, like everyone who has spoken, I am entirely in favour of this Bill. But, like one or two other hon. Members and, I have no doubt, the Minister as well, I think the Bill does not go far enough. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans) did not think the Bill was wholly effective. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) found the Bill in some respects only a relatively good Bill, so that it is obvious that it leaves things to be desired.
I believe that the most important part of this Measure is that which seeks to solve, or go some way towards solving, the problem of over-fishing. I will say no more on this subject of what has been said many times, other than this: that mankind in his folly has succeeded in destroying many interesting and valuable kinds of animals and birds, but he has never yet succeeded in utterly destroying a fishery. Something has always stepped in to save him from the consequences of his own folly. For instance, economics. 853 When fishing becomes unprofitable fishermen cease to go to sea, or may be a war breaks out and the over-fished grounds get a rest. Whether it is economics or war, what really comes to our assistance is the vis medicatrix naturae—the wonderful healing power of nature which, given a chance, will restore a heavily over-fished area to normal conditions.
It is of the utmost importance that as soon as possible we should get a complete answer to the question of over-fishing in the North Sea. I say so for this reason: although, so far as I know, there is as yet no over-fishing in distant waters, it is a fact that the danger signal has appeared. It was mentioned in the Second Reading Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson), who drew attention to a very significant point. Records show that the average weight of cod landed has been steadily decreasing. That is not necessarily a bad thing. It is not a bad thing in the early stages of the exploitation of a new fishing ground, because in these conditions there tends to be an altogether undue proportion of heavy, old fish. When new fishing grounds are opened up the proportion of such fish is gradually reduced in numbers, but a little beyond that over-fishing appears.
This means that within a measurable time we shall be faced with the problem of over-fishing in distant waters. If that day comes the Government of the United Kingdom will be greatly fortified if, in dealing with the other nations concerned, they are in a position to cite the case of the North Sea as a successful example of how a fishing ground can be controlled in such a way as to yield from year to year the maximum quantity of human food that it is capable of producing.
More than one hon. Member has pointed out that in the Debates on this Bill so far we have not had very much information about the agreements entered into under the North Sea convention. I am still not quite certain what the position is, and perhaps the Minister will tell us when he replies. I understand that so far as this Bill is concerned what we are doing is to apply the agreed mesh regulation in our own territorial waters, and that outside these waters the signatories of the Convention have already reached agreement on the size of mesh to be used. There is this to be said—we are 854 not going to solve the problem in the North Sea by regulating the size of mesh. Though it is a useful contribution it does not provide the entire answer. Clause 2 licenses vessels with the object of controlling the total tonnage to be used in the North Sea, which is a more fundamental approach to the problem. That Clause gives a certain amount of apprehension to the fishing industry.
I do not think that any proper agreement was reached about this. What it amounted to was that the various nations attending the Standing Advisory Committee of the Over-Fishing Conference have agreed to differ. I do not call that a very satisfactory form of agreement, even though they put forward proposals of their own which show that they are moving in the same direction. The fact is that practically every signatory Power holds a different view, and, apparently His Majesty's Government hope that by setting a good example to other nations that they will be induced to follow suit. They are giving a considerable hostage to fortune if they do anything until they are very certain that other nations will follow their example. It is going to be extremely difficult, considering the wide variety of opinions of other nations, for the United Kingdom to be certain that they are really observing the particular undertakings into which they enter. It would be disastrous to our fishing industry and to our fish supply if at the end of the day we prove to be the only nation which has effectively honoured its obligation.
I hope very much, as does everybody connected with the industry, that the Government's good faith will be justified by the result and I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind—and I have studied this over-fishing problem for a number of years—that the suggestion put forward by His Majesty's Government for limiting the total tonnage with a view to limiting the amount of fishing carried on in the North Sea is the proper solution. We should continue to press for an agreement along those lines even if, at the present time, we have not succeeded in getting one. The Government should continue to use their powers to get an agreement on the lines put forward.
I would go further than that and suggest that they might use a certain amount of pressure as well. We are in a position to do it. We have done it before and 855 we can do it again. We used pressure to get an agreement in regard to the size of mesh used in the North Sea and to diminish the amount of trawling by foreign trawlers in waters around our coasts which we thought in the interests of our own people ought not to be trawled. The Government should not forget that in the United Kingdom there is a market which is of tremendous importance to the other nations who fish in the North Sea. We should use not merely persuasion but something a little more than that.
I turn to the other part of the Bill. Reference has been made to the amount of herring available in the North Sea. I mentioned on the Second Reading that before the 1914–18 war we used to get between 400,000 and 500,000 tons of herring annually out of the North Sea and that at the present moment, we are barely getting half of that amount. I entirely agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham that we should get the herring as widely consumed as possible in this country. Our motto about this ought to be, "Eat what we can and can what we can't," using the word "can" in the widest possible sense to include every form of processing herring with a view to preservation. The fact remains that having used all we can by eating them, by curing them, by kippering them, by marinating them, and by freezing them, there are more herring in the sea than we can make use of. Therefore, I still disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham who protests against herring being used for providing fish meal and oil. I commend the use of herring for these purposes, because both of these things are very badly needed in this country and are not likely to be available in sufficient quantities for a long time to come.
With regard to the question of oil, I am sorry that the Government could not see their way to substitute the word "pelagic" for herring. I made this suggestion on the Committee stage. The Herring Board ought to have the opportunity of processing not only the herring but any of its cousins, like mackerel. The Minister himself made a strong appeal when he was tackled about one point for flexibility in the Bill. The substitution of the word "pelagic" for "herring" would give that flexibility which the 856 Board ought to have. It may not be its intention to deal with mackerel or pilchards at the present time, but, nevertheless, it would be a good thing if the Board had the power to do it if they so desired.
Another point in this connection which I desire to stress is that interesting experiments are going on at the present time, conducted at the instance of the Herring Industry Board, in which by chemical means the protein of the herring is being broken down and reconstituted to something closely resembling egg albumen. Such experiments are of great interest to the industry and to the country from the point of view of food supplies. Various references have been made to the experiment conducted by the Herring Board at Lerwick.
I prefer to call it the Shetland experiment, because Lerwick is not the only place in Shetland where herring fishing is carried on. That ancient fishing ground is coming into its own once again. It is now the third year since the Board started the experiment there. The Shetland men showed a great deal of faith at the outset when they decided to collaborate with the Board, and their faith has been fully justified by the results. The success of the Board's experiments in the Shetland have fully justified the case which has been put forward in this Bill for giving the Herring Board greater power than it had before. The Shetland experiment has been very successful and has impressed fishermen in other parts of the country. Everyone realises that given wider powers and the reasonable collaboration of the fishermen, the Herring Industry Board can solve a number of problems which in the past have proved very intractable indeed.
In conclusion, I desire to rebut the criticism of the hon. and learned Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Hector Hughes) and his animadversions on previous Governments. He made a purely party speech and tried to get away with the suggestion that the Labour Party was wholly responsible for the various improvements which have taken place in the fishing industry. After I had listened to him I wondered if he had ever read the Elliot Report or even heard of it. Had he read it he would have realised the tremendous contribution which my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Scottish Universities (Lieut.-Colonel 857 Elliot) has made to the solution of the problems of the herring fishing industry, starting with the work of the valuable committee of which he was chairman. I do not think it is unfair to claim that he laid the foundations of a statutory edifice of which this Bill may be justly regarded as the coping stone, and every credit should be given to him for his work in the past and also to that of the party to which I have the honour to belong. The fishing industry has not been an easy one to help because of the independent outlook of the men in it. Nevertheless, I think a better spirit is abroad now as a whole and that everybody in the industry is realising more and more that they must work together.
I welcome this Bill very much. I want to re-echo the words of my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in what he said about the Board of Trade and the Herring Industry. He spoke words of great wisdom which I hope will bear fruit. I also hope that the weaknesses on the international side will continue to receive the Government's attention and that at the end of the day the United Kingdom will succeed in getting all the signatories to the North Sea Convention to act on the same lines in order to solve this problem of over-fishing in the North Sea once and for all.
§ 1.22 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (Mr. George Brown)
As we part with this Bill for the last time in this House it is nice to have the chance of tidying up a few of the ends in a Debate which all through has been so friendly, good-humoured and constructive. Many hon. Members began by saying that they welcomed the Bill, ended by saying that they welcomed the Bill, and found time in the middle to say that it does not go far enough. As a very junior Member of this House I learned that was a pretty safe utterance to make on any Bill, and that at some stage or other it ought to be said as a matter of form. That is about what it amounts to.
The Bill in fact deals with two rather important things. It sets out first to protect the fishing grounds, the source of much of this Kingdom's greatness and of much of the food of our people at the moment. That is, after all, a great thing. 858 There was some question whether we go far enough, and I was sadly disappointed that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetlands (Sir B. Neven-Spence) did not go a little further. At one stage I understood him to say that the Government should use their persuasion with other Governments and, having used that, should use a little more. I had visions of the Shetland Artillery being brought up to back up what we should use on the other Governments, and I was sorry he stopped when he did.
The Bill goes a long way to protect the source of our fish and bring assistance to valuable sections of our fishing industry. In that respect it is an important Bill, as, indeed, the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Assheton) said it was. He asked me to say a word about the position with regard to the Convention and the Standing Advisory Committee, a matter about which the last speaker confessed himself not altogether clear. The position is that we have two separate things. First the Over-fishing Convention, with which we are dealing in Clause 1. That Convention has been ratified by Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden and ourselves. Of the other States which have not yet ratified there have been unofficial intimations to us in several cases that instruments of ratification are being prepared now and will be formally deposited in a short time. It is due more to the legislative processes of those countries than anything else, so that considerable progress has been made in ratifying that Convention.
So far as the final Report of the Standing Advisory Committee is concerned, about which the last speaker said that the Governments concerned had agreed to differ, that is not quite right. What they have done is to agree to take different measures, each different measure being agreed by all to be roughly the equivalent of the different measures of the other countries.
§ Mr. E. Evans
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member. He said that so many countries were ratifying; did they ratify a clause which corresponds to our Clause r, the larger mesh Clause?
§ Mr. Brown
Yes. I said this when I was dealing with the ratification of the Over-fishing Convention, that is the larger 859 Mesh Convention. I have left that now to go on to the Report of the Standing Advisory Committee which deals with rather different things. As we could not get agreement on one thing we got agreement on a series of things which roughly amounted to the same, having regard to our different circumstances. The final Report of that Standing Advisory Committee, which is the Report under which our licensing provisions will come, has been accepted by Sweden, Portugal, Denmark, France and ourselves. There are six other countries left to accept.
I would say, however, that although that is quite encouraging, the position is if anything rather better than that because some of those countries have very little interest, if any, in North Sea fishing and have indicated that they will accept anything which was generally acceptable to those really concerned. So there are at least three of those countries whose acceptance will not be much more than formal when the others have accepted, and there are, therefore, only two or three countries left to accept formally in that regard. I hope that makes the position clear to the right hon. Gentleman.
Several things have been said about whether the Bill really will affect the position of immature fish. The hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. E. Evans), the hon. Member for Streatham (Sir D. Robertson) and the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) have made the point that the size of the mesh may have little effect, and that there are other things that one ought to do. During the last week I have had the opportunity of visiting certain of the East Coast fishing ports referred to by the hon. Member for Streatham and of looking at the fish landed in the market early in the morning—for me, very early in the morning. I was greatly alarmed at the size of the fish held in the containers. It was quite a shock to me. I was interested to discover that everybody with whom I talked—fishermen, merchants, trawler owners—confessed to the same sense of alarm. There is quite a genuine feeling about this. I can say that the orders which we would propose to make with regard to the size of the mesh and the landing of immature fish are in the course of preparation, and that we hope to present these orders to this House shortly, when I think the hon. Members 860 who have raised this point will find that it has been well taken care of and will be met at that time.
The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. D. Marshall) asked about pelagic fish, and I will deal with this now because it was raised by other hon. Members, including the real author of the term, the last speaker. The point I can make briefly is this: it seemed to us that to include in this Bill powers for the Herring Board to make grants in respect of something with which they have no power to deal in other Acts, would be inappropriate. The Amendments fall to be made elsewhere, and to put them into this Bill would be out of place. I would like to say, however, that the Government are anxious that the supplies of pilchards and similar fish shall be fully taken up. We hope that the extension of the processing factories we have in the part of the country in which the hon. and learned Member for St. Ives (Mr. Beechman) is interested, will help in that regard, but if there are additional surpluses that can go for oil, steps will be taken by the Government to see that they are made use of in that way.
The hon. Member for Banff referred to the Lerwick or Shetland scheme. We are anxious that that scheme, which has proved so valuable, both as regards processing, the average price and so on, should be extended to other ports. One of the main reasons for the extension of the powers of the Herring Industry Board is to give them the opportunity of extending that valuable scheme to other ports, and we hope that that will be done. The second part of the scheme pre-supposes a measure of agreement amongst the parties concerned. It must be borne in mind that it cannot be imposed by us.
The hon. Member for Banff raised the question of research and the fact that herrings were not now feeding in the grounds on which Scottish fishermen fish for them. I have had a short talk with my colleague on the Front Bench and I understand that we now have a vessel in those waters which is making investigations into these problems. I have been given an indication of the kind of things being discovered, and the hon. Member will be glad to know that researches are being made into the very point he raised. We are hoping to get some very useful information.
861 I think that the hon. Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) has some obvious misconceptions about Clauses 3 and 4 and the loans to fishermen's co-operative societies. It would be unfortunate if the impression were to prevail that we are contemplating the very limited measure of assistance which he has in mind for the building of boats for inshore fishermen. The hon. Member has confused the purposes of Clauses 3 and 4. Clause 4, in fact, gives us an opportunitity to make loans as a gesture of encouragement to fishermen's co-operative societies. The idea is to have a limited amount of money to help them meet the initial cost of setting themselves up as societies. The question of building boats for inshore fishermen falls to be dealt with not under Clause 4, but under Clause 3, where power is taken to extend the money available to £1,500,000. Therefore, most of the points made by the hon. Member do not arise.
The hon. Member for Streatham was worried about what other countries will do. He said that none of the other countries would ratify the agreement or have introduced legislation to do so. This is a question of using as much persuasion as we can. Already the Agreement has been ratified by a number of countries. We have an obligation to move and, on the question of the size of mesh of the net, it is in our interests to make a move. Arrangements are made for countries who have ratified to report to the Standing Advisory Committee the steps they are taking so that we shall know how far other people are moving in this respect; we shall be able to help push them along if necessary.
The hon. Member for Streatham referred also to the effect of trawling on the stock of herring. I am by no means competent to enter into such an argument but am advised there is no scientific evidence that trawling has the effect he suggested upon the stock of herring in the sea. I gather that the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland thought the same when he referred to the doubling of the stock in the sea, despite the fishing which has taken place.
§ Sir B. Neven-Spence
I do not wish the Parliamentary Secretary to misunderstand me. What I said was that at present we are taking out of the North Sea less than 862 half the quantity of herring we took before 1914.
§ Mr. Brown
I am sorry if I misunderstood the hon. Member. I am told, in fact, that trawling is carried out on certain fishing grounds where spawning does not take place. Our scientific advisers, therefore, take the view that it does not have a harmful effect. This matter is kept well under review but if later advice is different we must take some further action.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
As the Parliamentary Secretary will know, the same point has been raised before. I hope that the researches being carried out in the Forth may give an answer to this problem as it affects all parts of the coast.
§ Mr. Brown
That is one of the matters to which our vessel, to which I have referred, will direct its attention. If I may say so, I thought the tone of the speech of the hon. Member for East Fife (Mr. Henderson Stewart) was to be regretted. It seemed that at that stage of our discussion we were importing a good deal of suspicion which was not justified. When he referred to the ignoring of small fishing communities he was talking without much attention to the Bill. I should have thought that the whole effect of Clauses 3 and 4 will be that the small fishing communities are not ignored, for we shall give assistance specifically to these smaller communities. I remember resisting an Amendment during the Committee stage on the very ground that I thought it would be unfair to these smaller fishing communities if we were to extend this particular form of assistance to somebody else. I must emphasise our hope and expectation that, by the assistance we hope to extend under Clauses 3 and 4, we shall give a valuable and real measure of assistance to the smaller communities.
The hon. Member for West Belfast (Mr. Beattie) wanted to involve me in a quarrel which I always like to avoid, since my ancestors came from Cork. He wanted to know why certain sections of the Bill were not extended to Northern Ireland. The answer is that Northern Ireland has its own Parliament and its own schemes covering these particular points. Those parts of the Bill, therefore, should not and could not appropriately apply to Northern Ireland. The Herring Industry Act and those parts of the present Measure amending it do, in fact, apply to Northern 863 Ireland, as do the licensing provisions to fishing which is done in the North Sea. Eire, like other countries, was a party to the Convention and other discussions and will no doubt be ratifying in due course. They will be watched, helped and encouraged, if necessary, in the same way as other countries, but not more or less so. I think I have dealt with the various points raised during our discussion today.
§ Mr. Boothby
Will the Parliamentary Secretary reply to one point which I consider is of great importance? I refer to the necessity of co-operation between the Board of Trade and the Herring Board. If the hon. Gentleman will say that he will bring this question to the notice of the President of the Board of Trade I shall be grateful, because it is a vital matter.
§ Mr. E. Evans
The present is a singularly opportune time to obtain ratification in view of the trade talks now taking place with Eire.
§ Mr. Brown
We shall lose no opportunity of encouraging Eire and other countries to ratify. Ratification is now taking place and there is no reason to assume that any of the parties will hold out. I will see that this matter is brought to the attention of the President of the Board of Trade.
The Bill, by extending a measure of protection to the valuable fishing grounds, and by extending a valuable measure of assistance to the important sections of our fishing fleet, will be an important contribution to the future of this great industry and of these great men. I have the greatest pleasure in commending to the House its Third Reading in the knowledge that it will receive general approbation on all sides.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.