HC Deb 11 June 1953 vol 516 cc437-9
29. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade what restriction exists on the landing of foreign-caught fish in the United Kingdom; and in what countries there are restrictions on the import of British-caught fish.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

Fresh and frozen fish may be imported into the United Kingdom under open general licence without quantitative restriction if taken and landed by vessels of Western European and certain other foreign countries or if consigned from those countries; landings of foreign-caught fish, like those of British-caught fish, are however, subject to the restrictions imposed by the Sea Fishing Industry (Immature Sea Fish) Order, 1948.

On the second part of the Question, I assume that my hon. Friend has in mind those Western European countries which are fairly easily accessible to our fishing fleets. Import arrangements in those countries vary considerably. Portugal and Switzerland admit imports of British-caught fish almost without restriction. Norway, France, Western Germany, Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and the Irish Republic restrict imports in varying degrees.

Mr. Osborne

In view of the difficulties with which the industry is faced at this time of the year, would the President look into the possibility of seeing whether our fishermen could get as fair a deal from other countries as we give to them?

Mr. Thorneycroft

This Question asks me to state factually what the restrictions are. I would be very far from agreeing that we should insist on exact reciprocity in all forms of quota and licensing arrangements on each item. That would make our trading very difficult indeed.

Mr. Osborne

I am not asking for exact reciprocity. I am asking that our trade should get as fair a deal in other countries as we give to their fishermen and to their catches here. That is all.

30. Mr. Osborne

asked the President of the Board of Trade what were the prewar quotas imposed on the landing of foreign-caught fish in the United Kingdom and, in view of the glut of British-caught fish at this time of the year, if he will consider reimposing the pre-war quotas.

Mr. P. Thorneycroft

The pre-war quotas for foreign landings of sea fish are set out in Part II of the Schedule to the Sea-Fishing Industry (Regulation of Landing) Order, 1933, a copy of which I am sending to my hon. Friend.

As regards the second part of the Question, it would be contrary to our international obligations to introduce restrictions of this kind on foreign landings unless at the same time corresponding action were taken to regulate British landings.

Mr. Osborne

As international agreements can be altered, have been altered and, where they are unjust, ought to be altered again, would the President bear in mind that many of the crews get their wages according to the value of the catch, and since there is a slump now and they are not getting good returns will he look at this again and see that our people get a fairer deal than they are getting today?

Mr. Thorneycroft

My hon. Friend will realise that it would be a very major alteration in international arrangements if we were to start to use import quotas for protective purposes when they are designed to deal with balance of payments difficulties.

Mr. G. Brown

If the use of import quotas for that purpose is improper for the reasons which the right hon. Gentleman has given, how much more improper is it for the Government to allow a complete ban, as operates at the moment?

Mr. Thomeycroft

That raises an entirely different question. I am asked here solely about Government restrictions on the imports of fish.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Co-relatively, are there not unjust restrictions on sales of British-caught fish in Continental countries, and is it not time that that was reviewed in favour of the British fish industry?

Mr. Thorneycroft

Restrictions vary very considerably between country and country. If the hon. and learned Gentleman would like particulars of any special form of restrictions in any country perhaps he would put a Question down.