§ The Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Henderson Stewart)
I am glad to be able to inform the House that the Herring Industry Board have just concluded a contract for the sale of cured herring to the value of £850,000 to the U.S.S.R. Deliveries of the cured herring will be made from the Scottish and East Anglian seasons and if, owing to the fishing, the quantities produced this year are insufficient, deliveries will be carried forward to next year. I am sure there will be widespread satisfaction in the House and throughout the herring industry at the successful completion of this deal.
§ Mr. Boothby
Will my hon. Friend confirm the fact that this deal involves over 150,000 barrels of herrings? Is he aware that his statement will cause great satisfaction in Northern Scotland, whatever it may do to the Opposition?
§ Mr. Stewart
The actual number of barrels will depend on how many are supplied from Scotland and how many from East Anglia. I should prefer. therefore, not to hazard a guess of even an approximate number at this stage. I can say, however, that the number is considerably more than the figure I have seen mentioned in the Press.
§ Mr. Woodburn
Can the hon. Gentleman tell us how the publicity department of the Scottish Office is two or three days behind the publicity department of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) in announcing that this would be published?
§ Mr. Stewart
The publicity department of the Scottish Office have nothing to do with this. This contract was signed only this morning by the Herring Board.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that this was one of the questions we discussed at the Moscow Economic Conference and, without incorporating the opinion of the President of the Clyde Fishermen's Association, who happens to be the hon. Member for South Ayrshire, may I ask the Joint Under-Secretary for Scotland if he is aware that this will be very welcome news to the people on the Clydeside of Scotland because they realise that this is also the 1443 beginning of a trade relationship with Russia, which is very essential to trade relations in that part?
§ Mr. Stewart
I think that this will be welcome news to herring fishermen in all parts of the country. With regard to the first part of the supplementary question, the hon. Member must believe that negotiations for this contract started long before he went to Moscow.
§ Mr. Wyatt
Is it not clear, Mr. Speaker, from the nature of the answer to this Question that it was an arranged Question between the Minister and the Private Member concerned, particularly as the Minister said that the contract was only signed this morning, and is that not an improper use of the Private Notice Question procedure?
§ Mr. Speaker
We have had a discussion on this point already. I must say—and my mind goes back a long way both as a Minister and as a Private Member of this House—that I have known this done in every single Government of which I have knowledge.
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
While not in any way wishing to deny the value of the somewhat glamorous association of the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) in connection with this agreement, may I say that Members on this side of the House, representing fishing constituencies and other constituencies, do welcome this agreement and sincerely hope that it will be continued and extended as the years go on?
Will the hon. Gentleman not agree that we should also thank the Scottish Home Department officials and the Board of Trade, as well as the Herring Industry Board, who for years have been working very hard indeed to get greater goodwill 1444 and the restoration of the trade in herrings with the Soviet Union? Can the hon. Gentleman indicate what preparations are now under way to make sure that the agreement is made effective in terms of the fishing industry of North Minch?
§ Mr. Stewart
The Herring Industry Board are taking all proper and urgent measures to deal with the matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Elliot
Does not the interest shown by the House in this Question since the answer was announced triumphantly indicate its importance, and should not the House be very grateful indeed to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland for having, at the first possible moment, communicated to the House this most important decision which will be of great interest not merely to the herring ports but to the whole population of Scotland?
§ Mr. Edward Evans
As a representative of one of the East Anglian herring ports, might I say how very warmly we welcome the announcement by the hon. Gentleman and how pleased we are that the negotiations which have been carried on for a long time by the Herring Board under this Government and the previous Government have at last borne fruit.