HC Deb 25 April 1950 vol 474 cc755-7
14. Mr. Henderson Stewart

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he has any further statement to make on the steps proposed to deal with the crisis in the inshore fishing and herring industry.

Mr. McNeil

The eventual effects of decontrol on fish prices are not yet known; but in the meantime the Government are actively examining the position of all sections of the white fishing industry.

Mr. Stewart

Has the right hon. Gentleman quite grasped the gravity of this crisis? At this moment it does not sound so. Does he realise that unless there is a substantial cut in costs or an increase in prices, boats simply will not fish? What is he going to do about it?

Mr. McNeil

I am a little delighted by the hon. Gentleman's dissatisfaction with private enterprise, but even private enterprise should be allowed to run a little longer than it has done before we make changes in prices.

Mr. Stewart

Is the right hon Gentleman aware that it is not private enterprise but Government controls which are adding to the cost?

Mr. McNeil

Unless I have badly misunderstood the hon. Gentleman, I thought he inferred that he wanted more Government control. If he does not, perhaps he will let me know what he does want.

Sir William Darling

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the principal problem for fishermen is the high cost of transport on British Railways, which is not private enterprise at all?

Mr. McNeil

I think I should admit right away that railway costs, so far as Scottish fishermen are concerned, are quite a considerable factor, but they are not the only factor determining the stability or efficiency of this industry.

Mr. Grimond

Will the Minister bear in mind the heavy charge of all freight costs, and try to see if some new scheme to enable a flat rate for fish freight cannot be devised?

22. Mr. Hector Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what conclusion he has reached as a result of his consideration of the report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on the Fishing Industry in Aberdeen.

Mr. McNeil

The Report of the Committee has been considered by the Government. Aberdeen is at an admitted disadvantage compared with other ports because of the high cost of transporting coal to the port and fish to the English market; on the other hand, Aberdeen is nearer the northern fishing grounds and also lands a high proportion of high quality fish. It is difficult to assess the extent to which fish from Aberdeen is in effective competition with fish from other ports. The economic balance is therefore difficult to strike. In any event the cost of fuel and the cost of sending fish to England are only two aspects of the economy of the fishing industry at Aberdeen. Moreover representations have been made to the Government by all sections of the white fishing industry that the industry as a whole is facing serious difficulties and its position is being actively examined. The Government have therefore concluded that the difficulties at Aberdeen should be considered as part of that wider examination.

At Aberdeen as at other ports there are, of course, problems which arise from the layout of the facilities a' the port and the organisation of the various sections of the industry. Steps have already been taken to improve the facilities for the handling of coal; and I am glad to say that, with the concurence of the industry, the Scottish Council (Development and Industry) at my request have agreed to set up a Working Party to consider whether further improvements are practicable.

Mr. Hector Hughes

While thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask him whether, as he is so keenly aware of the disadvantage which the North of Scotland fishermen suffer as the result of the removal of the flat rate, he will see that the procedure adopted by the Scottish Council is expedited before any further damage is done?

Lady Tweedsmuir

During the Debate on fishing on Thursday, will the right hon. Gentleman be able to put forward constructive suggestions ac to the Government's proposals to help the fishing industry?

Mr. McNeil

I think we had better await the Debate.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

I think we have already had quite enough. We had better pass to the next question.

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