HC Deb 17 May 1950 vol 475 cc1217-20
The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Thomas Fraser)

With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement on the subject of herring prices.

The Government have carefully considered the request of the herring fishermen for a subsidy sufficient to guarantee a price of 70s. per cran to be paid for all herring landed irrespective of usage and they have reached the conclusion that they would not be justified in acceding to this request.

They have, however, agreed with the request of the Herring Industry Board that they should be permitted to fix a minimum price of 70s. a cran on first sale of herring for freshing and kippering. It has also been arranged that the Board would resume forthwith payment at the rate of 35s. a cran for herring purchased for conversion to meal and oil.

Mr. Grimond

Would the hon. Gentleman tell us whether his Department have still under consideration the very high cost of gear, which is one of the chief reasons for the fisherman's demand for higher prices, and whether he can make any statement on the deliberations of the committee which he set up to inquire into the fishing industry?

Mr. Fraser

I am quite unable to make any statement at the moment.

Mr. Duthie

In view of the very poor prospects for the sale of cured herrings in Continental markets, will the hon. Gentleman endeavour to impress on the Minister of Food the need for the greatest consumption of herring, fresh and in kipper form, in this country, so that the season will yield a bonus to the well deserving fishermen?

Mr. Fraser

Yes, Sir.

Mr. Boothby

I take it that the hon. Gentleman's answer, which will be received with satisfaction in Northern Scotland, does not mean that the Government regard this as the conclusion of the matter. Will they continue every effort to find outlets and markets for herrings both at home and abroad?

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan

Is the Minister aware that this will give very great satisfaction to fishermen in the North of Scotland, and that the Government are to be complimented on the quick and urgent action which they have taken?

Major Sir Thomas Dugdale

Is the Minister satisfied that the steps taken by the Government are sufficient to enable the herring fleet to operate without loss?

Mr. Fraser

I think so, but one can never be absolutely certain. One does not know what the catches will be, but we think that this is a reasonable settlement.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Has the Minister considered the suggestion that a subsidy should be paid to cover the carriage of white fish from the North of Scotland to the South?

Mr. Fraser

That is another question. I have been dealing only with the herring problem.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is the Minister aware that there is a growing opinion among fishermen that de-control was a mistake, and will he consider some more positive measures to replace the present policy?