HC Deb 13 May 1952 vol 500 cc1102-3
30. Mr. M. MacMillan

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether his scheme for the substantial reduction of the cost of fishing nets and gear will be in operation in time to assist Scottish fishermen for the summer herring fishing season.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

I would refer the hon. Member to the answer given to him on 5th February.

Mr. MacMillan

Does this mean that the Secretary of State has not got such a scheme after all? In view of the expectation of a successful outcome of the labours of the Herring Industry Board and the Board of Trade to secure cured herring contracts from Soviet Russia this year, next year and onwards—and the fact that because of this expectation there will be all-out fishing by the fishermen—does not he agree that there is therefore a great need for more nets and gear? Is not the best way to encourage the fishermen to go in for all-out fishing to reduce the exorbitant charges for gear which he used to deplore so much?

Mr. Stewart

Yes; but the hon. Member knows that the high prices of fishing nets, ropes and other gear have been caused by the high prices of imported materials, such as sisal, manilla and cotton. He will be glad to know that recently there have been substantial reductions in the prices of sisal and cotton and that such things as we complained of when we were in Opposition are now being remedied.

Captain J. A. L. Duncan

Is my hon. Friend aware that hon. Members on this side, when we were in Opposition, pressed the Government for years to obtain a reduction in the price of fishing gear, and we got no change at all?

Mr. MacMillan

The Under-Secretary of State knows that this is entirely in the hands of a private monopoly. Did not he himself most strongly castigate the previous Government for not taking at least some of the steps which I am now asking him to undertake? We came to know his proposal as the Henderson Stewart scheme. Does not he study his own speeches, draw the inferences and apply the remedies which he advocated?

Mr. Stewart

There should be no difficulty about this matter. There cannot be a reduction in the price of ropes and nets until there is a reduction in the price of imported articles. As I said, since this Government came into power prices of imported articles have fallen.