HC Deb 31 July 1951 vol 491 cc1382-400

1.49 a.m.

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. McNeil)

I beg to move, That the Draft Herring Industry Scheme, 1951, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th July, he approved. I do not intend to speak for long on this matter not because it is unimportant, but because the House is very familiar with the provisions. We made the provisional order in April of this year, and we gave it quite considerable consideration. I am indebted to hon. Members on both sides of the House and to various sections of the industry outside who have cooperated with us very closely in an attempt to get an agreed document.

There are only three points about which there is still some anxiety, and, very briefly, I should like to try to remove those difficulties. First, in Articles 7 and 8 it will be seen that the Board are given the power to engage in trading activities to cover all aspects of the industry. I want to say quite unambiguously that it is not, of course, the intention of the Board to usurp the functions of the industry. The provisions in question do not enable them to do so. The powers of compulsory purchase are conferred for the sole purpose of enabling the Board to step in and take action in the general interests where private concerns are not willing or are not able to do so, or can only offer inadequate service.

The second point about which there has been some concern arose under Article 15. Under this Article, the Board have power to make cured herring purchase schemes. The House is indebted to the Select Committee for having drawn its attention to this Article. As Appendix B to the Report shows the power to make such schemes is only a slight, indeed a very slight, extension of the powers specifically authorised in the original Herring Industry Act. The essence of the Article is, that after having consulted with the curers and satisfying themselves that there is a prevailing opinion among the curers in favour of such a scheme, the Board can make a scheme which obliges them to purchase all the cured herring produced in accordance with the scheme, and obliges the curers to sell their production to the Board on the terms specified in the scheme.

The Board thus assume part of the risk of curing, and thereby helps to ensure that curing takes place on the maximum scale consistent with the markets abroad likely to be available. As hon. Members know, the Board have done this in agreement with the curers for some four years. There is a wide measure of agreement about the draft scheme and about the additional powers conferred upon the Board. The scheme, I suggest, will enable the Board to help the industry more effectively to put itself on a firmer basis, commercially and economically.

I admit that the curers lodged objection to Article 15. So did some of my hon. Friends, and some hon. Members opposite. Their objection was based on the ground that the Article makes no provision for arbitration about the terms on which cured herring are to be sold to the Board. The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) discussed this subject with me. I think it is important to note that before the curers become committed to the scheme they will have before them the terms which the Board propose to include in the scheme. I think that perhaps will be enough to persuade hon. Members that it is the minimum necessary.

These terms are, of course, open to negotiation between the Board and the curers, and they do not therefore seem appropriate for arbitration. I repeat, scheme can only be made where there is a prevailing opinion—a very substantial majority—among the section affected, in this case the curers, in favour of the scheme. So it will be true that the curers are free to negotiate with the Board on aspects of the contract into which they are entering. It would be quite proper for them, under the agreement, to secure concessions acceptable to themselves about the fashion in which the contract might be ended if some catastrophic and unlooked for event wiped out, or even diminished, the overseas markets available.

The third point arises from the fact that the Board take power to fish. I need not spend any time in assuring the House that it is not a normal undertaking. My hon. Friend the Member for the Western Isles (Mr. M. MacMillan) questioned me the other day about the old high quality summer sales of herring; but here, the shoals have not been present, and the fishermen have not had the resources to attack the shoals. That is the kind of venture which the Board might take upon itself.

Sir John Mellor (Sutton Coldfield)

On that point I wonder if we could have the observations of the Secretary of State upon the Eighth Report of the Select Committee on Statutory Instruments, which has reported the draft order to the House? That draws the attention of the House to the fact that it appears to be an unusual or unexpected use of the statute under which it is made. May we have his observations on that Report?

Mr. McNeil

I have already indicated our indebtedness to the Select Committee in three matters to which it has drawn our attention. It is quite reasonable that the Select Committee should be cautious, and even suspicious about this unusual power, but I repeat that there is no intention other than that the power should only be used for what I might term "non-commercial fishing." It was a subject with which, I think, hon. Mem- bers became familiar during our discussions on the White Fish Industry Bill.

Sir J. Mellor

I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman does appreciate that a Select Committee has reported this Order as deserving of special attention by the House. The Select Committee is not concerned with the merits of the order; it is never so concerned. Its concern was as to whether the provisions of the order were made within the scope of the powers conferred by the statute under which it was made. That is the point to which I invite the attention of the Secretary of State.

Mr. McNeil

If the hon. Baronet turns back to Appendix B, on page 4 of the Eighth Report of the Select Committee, he will see that we have replied at some length to that point. I think that we have made an effective reply. The essence of the reply turns on the last paragraph, 3. Before exercising such powers the Board must, first, satisfy themselves that the proposed exercise is necessary in order to secure proper provision for the needs of the herring industry, and, secondly, consult so far as is practicable with persons or organisations appearing to them to be representative of the interests concerned.

Sir J. Mellor

I am obliged to the right hon. Gentleman, but he will appreciate that it was after consideration of that memorandum that the Select Committee reported that the order should receive the special attention of the House as making an unusual or unexpected use of the powers.

Mr. McNeil

When the Eighth Report was published, we added an Appendix replying to the observations of the Select Committee.

Sir J. Mellor

If the Secretary of State would be so good as to look at the dates he will see that the date of the Memorandum is 21st July while the date of the Report is 23rd July. I therefore think that my contention is correct.

Mr. McNeil

I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. He is obviously right. Let me try to reply. The Order is drawn very widely, and provides that the powers necessary are required for the organisation and regulation of the industry. The powers, broadly speaking, are those de- rived from the Herring Industry Act, and I should think that, provided the Board satisfy themselves that the action is essential to meet some re-organisation criteria, they would be acting quite properly.

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman is interested in any particular aspect of the powers which we proposed the Board should have. I have referred to the only three to which, as far as I know, objection has been taken, or upon which anxiety has been expressed. I hope that he and the House generally will agree that we have met any reasonable objection upon the subject.

I do not complain, and I am sure no one in the House will complain, about the great caution displayed by the Select Committee, or about the caution which is normal in the House upon an Instrument of this kind. But we have repeatedly over recent years been told—and been told from both sides of the House—that the Herring Industry Board do not have the powers necessary for the job. I believe we are now giving them, not any extravagant powers but essential and, I hope, well defined powers.

They are not out of line with the powers which we have offered to the other side of the fishing industry, and I think that it will be agreed on all sides that the Herring Industry Board now, for the first time, have the Instruments necessary for their job. We hope they will bring to this job, which is of great importance not only to this section of our economy but to the whole country, vigour and an imaginative use of these powers.

2.3 a.m.

Mr. Duthie (Banff)

This is an Order of such fundamental importance to the constituency I represent that I should like, even at this late hour, to crave the indulgence of the House to make a few brief comments on it. The Herring Industry Board as we know it have been very largely stultified by its lack of adequate powers. We have pleaded from this side of the House, since 1945 to my own knowledge, that these fuller powers should be accorded to the Board.

Mr. Edward Evans (Lowestoft)

And from this side.

Mr. Duthie

I believe that the powers now are adequate, and I believe that this is a good Instrument, but we cannot guarantee that it will be successful. There is the human element to be considered, and it is the duty of Ministers, of this House and of the industry to see that the Board is functioning properly, and, above all, to see that Article 5 is carried out to the fullest possible extent, for it says: It shall be the duty of the Board to exercise their powers so as to promote the development of the herring industry. There are one or two points which I believe are pertinent, and which should be voiced. I see in this Order the opportunity, and almost I would hope the certainty, of certain of our smaller herring ports, which have been moribund for years—maybe through lower prices being appearing to be offered—being brought within the orbit of the schemes the Board will introduce as a result of this Order. Gear costs are a vital consideration which the Board must take in hand.

I am very glad to have an assurance from the right hon. Gentleman that the Board will not operate in competition with existing efficient businesses. I am also glad to have elucidation about Clause 15. The Board have powers now to develop export businesses, particularly with regard to incursion into new markets or into markets which at present are the prerogative of the Dutch and the Norwegians.

This Order is of benefit to fishermen. The Herring Board have our best wishes. It has the green light. We want them to go ahead and do a good job.

2.6 a.m.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn (Yarmouth)

It is a curious commentary on our affairs that we have two commodities with which nature provides this country—coal and the herring—and have witnessed the exodus from this Chamber of hon. Members who have been tearing their hair out over tankers for Poland and the Japanese Peace Treaty. I have in my division a most efficient rayon industry which has developed since the war, and I would have liked to intervene in that debate on the question of likely Japanese competition in the next few years. But I regard this as a much more valuable topic on which we should be spending our time tonight. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."]

It is all very well to cheer ironically, but if the kipper had not come to the rescue of our eggs and bacon in the last ten years, this country would have been in a sorry plight. It is only because of the efforts of those great people in our herring fishing constituencies who have kept the industry going, despite all the difficulties of the last 20 or 30 years, that we have been able to eke out our supplies with herring and kippers and bloaters and buckling.

The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) rightly said that the people he represents, and his fellow Members, have worked with us to try to get a really efficient, workable scheme for this great national industry. Over the last few years we have worked together and eventually these wide powers have now been conferred on the Herring Industry Board. We hope that they will use these wide powers, as the Order says: with a view to better effecting the reorganisation, development and regulation of the herring industry. As the Minister has said, these draft regulations came out in April, and although they caused no ripple in places like Leek and Stoke, they certainly did in Great Yarmouth. The people who will be affected over the next few years by the regulations on this piece of paper will look carefully into the various points made tonight.

Some of them were facing alarming consequences because, from the little corner of East Anglia which I have the honour to represent, practically the whole of the trade is done with the Levant—with countries like Palestine and Egypt and, further west, towards Italy. The curing of herring for many hundreds of years has been developed by the forefathers of my present constituents. Therefore, when they saw some of the wide powers of these draft regulations they looked closely into them and we had discussions.

I gave them the assurance in our own town hall that the Minister has given us tonight, and I am glad that I was backing the right horse in assuring them that these powers will not be used to put out of business the only people in this country at present who know how to run that part of it. We have got that assurance, and therefore I can go back to Yarmouth during the Recess with a spirit of calm and confidence to meet these people and say, "You are to be allowed to carry on with your old job; you are going to be encouraged and given all the power of the State behind you to increase that export trade throughout the Mediterranean."

But I must make this quite clear. Paragraph 27 of the Order, for instance, says: The Board may, after consultation with such persons or organisations as appear to them to be representative of the interests concerned … That is to say, representatives of the interests concerned will be consulted. That, I take it, is a promise, and I take it that the Secretary of State is giving the promise tonight that the people concerned in that industry will be consulted when regulations are made carrying out these very wide powers, because our experience in East Anglia has tended to be the opposite.

Since the war, when the Herring Industry Board have had increased powers, they have had their advisory councils, of which we have heard so much discussion in the last few weeks, but I am told by the people who really would be of use, according to these words in paragraph 27, that they have hardly ever been brought into consultation at all; that they have been a dead letter. There is not much point in having advisory councils if they do not function properly, and I hope it will go forth from the House tonight that these people, who are the only people who know their particular business, really will be consulted through the advisory councils when they are set up.

I do not hesitate to speak up for England in these matters. We are discussing now an industry which has been far too long controlled from the smaller end of that industry in another country—in Scotland. [HON. MEMBERS "Oh."] I have beside me my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Edward Evans), who backs me up to the hilt, and who bears a Welsh name. We all know by looking at the illustrated papers that towards the latter end of the year—any year, in fact—the great herring season of this island takes place in Yarmouth, and that the combined fleets of England and Scotland are there.

Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian) rose

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

Let me make my point. The peak of the herring season is in the East Anglian season, when the combined fleets of England and Scotland assemble in the port of Yarmouth.

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)

Where are the combined fleets now? They are at Peterhead and Fraserburgh.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

I am not disputing where they are now. Some are at South Shields. Hon. Members have been eating South Shields kippers tonight. The time when the boats—

Mr. George Wigg (Dudley)

How does my hon. and gallant Friend tell the difference between a Scottish and an English herring?

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

I will see that when we meet after the Recess the experts mentioned in the draft Order give a demonstration. A scientific skill is involved. Many curers and processors will say that the herrings now being caught off the East Coast of England and Scotland are nothing like as good for making kippers as those we shall be getting in October off Yarmouth.

This is the only occasion when I can stand up for the English fishing interests and say that it is about time they were consulted more often and more easily than in the past. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."] It is not nonsense. For instance, when the fleets are assembled for the great autumn fishing off Yarmouth, there are meetings of the Herring Board and Advisory Council. I am assured by our processors, whom I met only a few weeks ago to discuss this, that they are expected to leave their business at the peak of the season—it lasts only a matter of weeks—and go to Edinburgh.

Mr. Manuel (Central Ayrshire)

Why not?

Mr. McNeil

This is nonsense. I have heard this allegation made and I have investigated it. A senior official of the Board is at Great Yarmouth, as he should be, during the East Anglian season. Members of the Board are there whenever it is necessary, and moreover, there is such an instrument as a telephone.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

It is not very often that people say I talk nonsense.

I said that they are expected to leave the Yarmouth and Lowestoft areas when the whole of the fishing fleet is there and go haring-off to Edinburgh to attend meetings. The whole of the Herring Board should go to Yarmouth at that time of the year. I know there is an expert there because I have met the man, and he is a very good man. But he is not the whole of the herring industry. I know that the cross-country journey from Yarmouth to Edinburgh is one of the worst which can be made on the railway system, whether it is run by a nationalised body or by private enterprise, but I have made my point which, I hope, has struck home. I hope that before I come back after the Recess I shall have met the representatives of the Herring Board and find that the complaint of my constituent is not justified.

Hon. Members who represent herring ports are fully in agreement with the wide issue behind this Order. We think this is overdue and that the Tories ought to have done this years and years ago. This is a great industry which has a real organisation for the first time and we all wish it well.

2.17 a.m.

Mr. Boothby (Aberdeenshire, East)

The House will be glad to get relief from tankers to Poland and rayon by the very real and vital subject of herrings. It is a great relief to know that nobody can accuse me of ever having spoken before upon this particular subject; at any rate, not today. I respect the enthusiasm of the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth (Squadron Leader Kinghorn), but he did talk some nonsense. It is well known to everybody that the finest-quality herring is that caught off the coast of Scotland. By the time the herring fleet reaches the hon. and gallant Member's constituency, herrings may be more plentiful, but they are very much coarser.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

Whether they are of high or low quality, herrings are there in such quantities that they are an industry vital to the economy of Yarmouth.

Mr. Boothby

No one disagrees. During the late autumn months, Yarmouth and Lowestoft are the centres. However, now the fleets are all up in my constituency and I hope they enjoy themselves very much because they are catching a very fine quality herring there at present. My hon. Friend the Member for Sutton Coldfield (Sir J. Mellor), who has now disappeared, was right in saying this Order exercised rather unusual powers in relation to the statute under which it is to be made, and I think the attention of the House was rightly drawn to that fact by the Select Committee. I am satisfied myself that there will be no indiscriminate use of the trading powers granted to the Board, which might place it in competition with existing concerns which are trading well and doing their job properly.

I think that is very important. I am also satisfied that, with the exception of canning, the home market—kippers, bucklings and bloaters—will be excluded from the operation of the scheme. I think it is right to separate the home market where the law of supply and demand should be allowed to play more freely. I am enthusiastic about the point raised by the Secretary of State about the necessity of having prevailing opinion among the interests concerned in favour of any particular scheme. I think, too, that the licensing powers of the Board have been modified in the draft now before the House.

The House ought to pass this scheme which brings the herring industry, as the Secretary of State has said, into line with the White Fish Authority. The Herring Board will have all the powers they need. But this implies something. It means that the Herring Board will have no further excuse for ineffective action. They have been very much inclined to excuse what I think is their great lack of vigour and energy by saying that they had not got sufficient powers to do all they wanted. There cannot possibly be any complaint now about not having all the powers they need. They have all the powers that the White Fish Authority have and can have no excuse for not taking vigorous action.

The Board ought to go to Yarmouth in the height of the season. They should be in Fraserburgh now. It is well known throughout the industry and I think the Scottish Office know it, too, that the Herring Industry Board have been a dis- appointment and have given the impression of weakness. I hope they will show much more vigour. It is important that they should do so. The manager is first-class, but the rest of the Board do not give the impression of being strong. It should not be the case that I should have to ask some of my hon. Friends representing herring constituencies to go to the Treasury and impress on the Economic Secretary the possibility of opening a market in Palestine. We had to do that. It ought to have been done a long time ago. The Herring Board should have done it.

Mr. McNeil

The Herring Industry Board, as a Board, were in Yarmouth during the last fishing season.

Mr. Boothby

That is untrue.

Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether it was in North Shields as well?

2.25 a.m.

Mr. Alex. Anderson (Motherwell)

When an hon. Member makes a constituency speech its length is generally in inverse proportion to the knowledge of the industry, and I would like to commend the speech of the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie), which was the model of correctness and brevity.

We should not part from this Order without stating what are the essential facts. The Herring Industry Board have had to be called into being, and have had to be given additional powers, because private enterprise in the herring fishing industry has failed to provide a return on capital, the replacement of shipping, to give a living to the men who work in it, and to provide markets for the produce of the industry. We are now to have Government intervention under this Order, and I should regret exceedingly if it was not realised throughout the country that any attempt that the Opposition have made has been to get more money from the Government without giving up any of the powers to run the industry under private enterprise.

The position of the fishing industry today is such that the Board require not merely powers but the courage to use them. They require courage particularly to tackle the vested interests which have been responsible for the state the industry is in today.

Mr. Boothby


Mr. Anderson

I believe that my experience in the fishing industry is of longer standing, and is more intimate, than that of the hon. Member.

Mr. Boothby

Has the hon. Member represented one of the leading herring industry constituencies for 27 years?

Mr. Anderson

I have not had the privilege of representing the industry, but my father worked in it, my mother gutted herring to get money to send me to a university. Every one of my family went down to the sea in boats and had nothing to do with the money changers of whom the hon. Member is the mouthpiece. I am one who represents the real fishing industry, and who does not do as the hon. Member does.

Mr. Boothby

Tell them that in Fraser-burgh and Peterhead.

Mr. Anderson

I am willing to go on to any platform in any fishing station in Britain, and I have been in Aberdeen recently.

We do not expect the Board to spend their time on the favourable ports. We have heard the hon. and gallant Member for Yarmouth (Squadron Leader Kinghorn) one of the most favoured fishing places in Britain, claiming that the industry is not getting sufficient attention. It has the sea at its feet, the fish within 12 miles, the fleets concentrated there, and the London market at its door. What are the Board going to do for the faraway places, such as Stornoway and Mallaig? We want less attention to be paid to Fraserburgh and Peterhead, and Yarmouth and Lowestoft, and more attention given to the outlying areas.

Most of all, we want to face the fact that the industry in Britain is going through a great transition. All this talk about the search for foreign markets is like telling people they are going back to the economy of potatoes and herring. If we are to have a herring fishing industry it must be organised on modern lines, it must fish for residuals and oils, and what is left must be eaten by the people who are prepared to go back to the economy in which hon. Members opposite kept me for many years. That is the point we have to face.

This Order comes into being with the blessing of both sides of the House, a modified blessing from the Opposition. It gives a prospect for the first time that the men who catch the fish will get a fair return for their labour, and that the country will get from a hardy people a return for the work they do.

2.30 a.m.

Mr. J. J. Robertson (Berwick and East Lothian)

I appreciate my unpopularity in rising at this late hour. I have no desire to compete against my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. A. Anderson) or the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby), as one who has special qualifications to speak on this subject, but I would modestly point out that I am, I think, the only Member who has been a herring fisherman. It is for that reason I ask the House to bear with me for a few moments while I congratulate the Herring Board on bringing forward this scheme.

This is, I think, by far the most progressive step that has been taken by the Scottish Office in giving added powers to the Herring Board. I hope that the House will not delay in passing this Motion, for we are all agreed that the Herring Board requires more powers. Many of us on this side have advocated that, as well as hon. Members on the other side who represent fishing constituencies.

I wish to correct the impression given by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Squadron-Leader Kinghorn) about the predominance of Yarmouth in the herring fishing industry. As a matter of fact, 60 per cent. of the total catch of herring in the United Kingdom is landed from Scottish boats. It is perfectly true that many of them go to Yarmouth, but the best herring are found along the north-west coast of Scotland and around the Shetlands. I hope that these points will be borne in mind.

I also hope that the Herring Board will use their powers vigorously and wisely. It is necessary, I think, that there should be on the Board people who have some practical knowledge of the industry. That is tremendously important from the point of view of the fishermen. It is not good enough that we should appoint any person who is not acquainted with the very complex nature of this very important industry. I regard this as one of the best Orders that we have had from the Scottish Office affecting the herring fishing industry. I should like to join with other hon. Members who represent fishing constituencies in wishing the scheme the best possible success.

2.32 a.m.

Mr. Malcolm MacMillan (Western Isles)

I apologise to the House for the lateness of the hour at which I have to speak, but I do not apologise for speaking on behalf of a section of our people to whom the whole nation turns with hope in time of war and whose interests in peace ought to be considered.

It is a refreshing change to consider this subject after some of the other subjects with which we have been concerned day and night for the last days and months. I do not apologise for speaking on behalf of the fishermen. I welcome the defence which my hon. Friends who sit for the pottery and cotton trade areas put up for their constituents' interests in the debate we had just now, and who have represented those interests more than once lately, but it does not seem to me less important to turn our attention from Japan and distant territories to our own country, and from those industries to other home industries.

It strikes me as rather strange, to say the least, that those hon. Members who reprimanded others for not being here when they were representing the pottery and cotton trades interests should, as soon as herring are mentioned, walk out, showing contempt. That, I think, is disgraceful. There is one of them now, one of my hon. Friends, actually sitting on the opposite side of the House at this moment.

Mr. Mikardo (Reading, South)

I do not want to be unkind to the hon. Member, but I think I spend as much time in this Chamber listening to all sorts of speeches as any other Member. I had been in the Chamber for many hours before I went out, and I think that my hon. Friend's reproof of me was unnecessary.

Mr. MacMillan

I did not intend to be unkind, and if the hon. Member thinks I was let me assure him it is that it comes to me naturally. I have no personal ill- feeling towards him; indeed, I respect his capacity and his interest in the affairs of this House.

I can understand the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Boothby) and the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Duthie) coming forward in support of this scheme tonight. They know that the people in the industry have been unable to put forward any proposals which they would back with their money, confidence, and their own faith in the industry. They were glad and relieved when the Government came forward and organised a plan for the industry to place it on a basis of stability and security for the workers for the first time. It also covers other interests as well, which will benefit from this scheme.

I remember the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East, expressing sympathy with the views expressed by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Yarmouth (Squadron Leader Kinghorn) when he spoke about the desirability of the Herring Board meeting in his constituency from time to time. On the other hand, we must remember that when the East Anglia fishing season is going full out every agency and official is to be found in East Anglia. Very few of them are in Scotland.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

They must have been on holiday.

Mr. MacMillan

They were in East Anglia and whether they were on holiday or not is something with which I am not now concerned. I am sure that my hon. and gallant Friend will be generous and interested enough to agree that the best processing firms in England are Scottish firms. We are not unwilling to export skill, ability and capital to help our English friends at any time.

Squadron Leader Kinghorn

Surely my hon. Friend knows that there is one name only in the great export trade to the Levant and that is Henry Sutton, of Great Yarmouth?

Mr. MacMillan

I do not get the full relevancy of that remark if it was intended to be a reply to me. I was only speaking about the best processing firms, which are all Scottish. The greatest percentages of herrings caught are caught in Scottish waters and by Scottish fishermen. I am not, however, prepared to argue the Scottish case to the absurd point of nationalism, and I am sure that my English friends feel the same.

Mr. Boothby

The hon. Gentleman will concede, as against his hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. A. Anderson), that Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Great Yarmouth have some importance in this industry?

Mr. MacMillan

I agree that they are so important in this industry in the North that they do not need as much help from the Herring Board as the Western Isles, which I represent. Wick is another place which needs a considerable amount of assistance. Fraserburgh and Peterhead have the Herring Board all to themselves and they get a great deal of attention. They have facilities for markets, transport and a whole lot of other things that Storonaway and Wick and other parts of the Western Isles have not got.

I hope that the Herring Board will apply their powers to help those areas which are not able to help themselves for reasons of remoteness, lack of proper transport or other difficulties from which they suffer.

Aberdeen is well based upon white fish. Herrings are not so important to her. They are of some importance, of course, but not as vitally important as they are to some of these smaller places. While we welcome this scheme, and the Board's new powers, I must express the hope that the Board will show more initiative than they have done so far. They are no longer tied down to experimentation, and to apologising all the time because they have no power and no money, and are not allowed to go into the industry. I hope that they will now go forward.

May I just raise this point—and I would like the attention of the Minister; I would like at least one Scotsman's attention for a moment. I am not trying to be rude, but just to speak a little louder. Is there to be a definite arrangement about the term of office of the chairman of the Board? I think it is important that there should be some continuity and security and stability for the chairman if we are to have a Board responsible for the industry. We do not know where we stand at the moment. We only know the position for next year. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is racking his brain now for a really good man, who ought not to be a retired business man, or barrister, a retired politician or trade union leader, but someone who knows something about the herring industry. He should then stay in that office for a reasonable period.

I do not propose to strain the right hon. Gentleman's patience or courtesy any further. My point was one of considerable importance, namely, that now that the Board have powers they should use them not only where it is easiest to do so, but where they are most effective.

2.42 a.m.

Miss Irene Ward (Tynemouth)

I have listened with great interest to the battle between the Scots and the English. I only hope that now that every Scotchman has batted.

Mr. Alex. Anderson


Miss Ward

The hon. Gentleman says "Scotsman," but I take pride in being on the right side of the Border.

North Shields is a very important fishing centre. Our impression in that part of the world is that the Scotch are very good publicists. They always intervene for their own fishing industry on every possible opportunity. I think that on this very important occasion it is necessary that some reinforcements in respect of the English fishing ports should be brought up. That being so, I wish to add, for my part of the world. my congratulations on the introduction of the Order, my good wishes to the Herring Board for the future, and to express my hope that they will give good service to our fishermen and to those who are concerned with the processing, curing, and selling of herrings.

After all, the herring industry is of extreme importance to all sections of the country; not only those who earn their livelihoods in it, but also those who have great good fortune in eating the herrings; and also because our fishing fleets have done so much service for our defence. I hope that if the Board are carrying out perambulations from one fishing port to another they will find the opportunity to send representatives to North Shields, where we shall give them a great welcome, and that in return for that welcome they will do something for us.

I am glad to join with other hon. Members who have spoken tonight and I hope that in future this industry will receive the attention which it undoubtedly deserves. In conclusion, may I say how glad I am to be able to advocate the excellent fish which comes from my constituency? I hope that every hon. Member will remember that.

2.46 a.m.

Mr. Hector Hughes (Aberdeen, North)

At this hour of the morning when popularity and merit are judged by brevity, I shall aim at making the shortest speech of this short debate. I am always short; but that is another matter. I have had the pleasure of being on the committee which considered this question; I know all about the scheme, and I think it excellent. I give it my blessing.

Question put, and agreed to.

Resolved: That the Draft Herring Industry Scheme, 1951, a copy of which was laid before this House on 12th July, be approved.