17. Mr. MacMillan
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he is aware of the widespread indignation and the loss now being suffered by lobster fishermen in the Western Isles through the operation of the Order restricting the size and condition of lobsters landed or sold; and whether, at least in respect of those caught for retention and feeding in the lobster ponds in the Islands, he will take steps to relax its application.
I realise that the Order may, to begin with, reduce the number of lobsters landed, but it should lead to increased stocks and so benefit the fishermen. I have no power to except from its operation lobsters landed for storage.
Is my right hon. Friend aware that several of these islands depend upon two industries, those of Harris tweed weaving and lobster fishing, and that the first of them has been almost completely wiped out because of the excessive Purchase Tax which robs them of their profit, and which, with excessive distribution costs, makes it impossible for the working classes to buy tweed in the retail shops?
Is he further aware that the other industry, lobster fishing, is being threatened to the extent of 40 per cent. of the catch in many areas, and that many of the fishermen are going to find it quite impossible to make a living, and not worth while to go to sea, unless some modification is made in the application of the present Order?
I can scarcely believe that 40 per cent. of the catch will be berried lobster, and I possibly have some slight experience of this subject. The fact is that the catches in Scotland have been dropping, and that unless we do something to remedy what is pretty plainly over-fishing, the end position will be much worse than the present.
§ Mr. Grimond
Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that he is examining alternative methods for conserving stocks? Would he, in particular, look at the measures which are, I believe, in force in Canada, where berried lobsters are put into ponds and then put back into the sea?
§ Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton
Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind how very important this type of fishing is for certain parts of Scotland, particularly along the West Coast? Could he, if necessary, make separate legislation—separate provisions—for fishermen on the West Coast?
Is my right hon. Friend aware that alternative proposals have been put forward by many of the fishermen, who have suggested a close time when the fishermen would be least affected by losses, and which period happens to coincide with the heaviest time of spawning? Is he further aware that there has been a decrease along the West Coast because the lobster ponds in the Western Isles have been overwhelmed with landings during the last 100 years? There is no evidence in the practical experience of fishermen that there has been a decrease.
§ Mr. Hector Hughes
Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he concentrates his whole attention on the lobsters of the Western Isles there may be widespread indignation amongst the lobsters along the East Coast, and that they may refuse to be caught?